How domain names work
What is a domain name?
A domain name is the name people use to find your website online.
All computers connected to the Internet have unique numerical addresses, a bit like international phone numbers. These are called IP addresses.
When you set up a website, a brand new IP address will be created. It’s a lot easier to remember names than a long string of numbers, so people will register a unique domain name which can act as an online address in the form of a URL. This can be used in place of your IP address.
For example, our domain name is theukdomain.uk
The Domain Name System (DNS) will store your IP address and domain name, so that anyone who searches for your domain name on the Internet will be sent to your URL.
Our URL is http://www.theukdomain.uk
Domain names are also used in email addresses so customers can easily contact you through a professional, trusted and recognised address that matches your website.
What is .uk?
In 2014, the newest member of the UK Domain Family was launched: .uk. It is a top-level-domain (TLD) that celebrates all forms of digital development in the UK. It works the same way as all other domains you may be familiar with, including .com and .org. .uk represents what’s new in the UK’s digital development. You can read more about it here.
How do I register a UK domain?
The first step is making sure that your domain name is available. You can do so with our domain search tool.
We recommend that you register your domain name through a registrar. When you search for a domain using, we’ll provide you with links to registrars through whom you’ll be able to purchase the domain.
In addition to registering the domain name, most registrars will offer services such as hosting your website, and forwarding email. But it’s important to know that you don’t have to host your website with your registrar if you don’t want to.
For more information, take a look at our page on choosing a registrar.
Who is Nominet?
We are! Nominet is a public benefit organisation, and one of the world’s largest Internet registries. We have managed UK domains (any domain that ends in .uk), since 1996. With highly respected industry credentials, Nominet is entrusted with the safe, stable and secure management of the .uk Internet name space.
Choosing a domain
How do I choose the right domain name?
We have a whole page dedicated to helping you choose the perfect domain name here. When you’ve decided on a domain name that you like, you need to check that it isn’t already registered by another user! This is really easy to do using our domain name search tool.
The domain name I want is taken. What can I do?
If the domain name you want has already been registered by someone else, you have a couple of options (other than coming up with another domain name).
You can use the WHOIS lookup tool to find out who currently owns that domain, and then get in touch with an offer to purchase the domain from them. Make sure you do your research first to determine whether the domain name is currently being used, and if it has an associated brand identity. This will influence whether the owner will be open to selling and how much for.
If you feel you have a right to the domain, potentially through a registered Trade Mark or contract agreement, then you can use our Dispute Resolution Service. You can find more information on this service on the Nominet website.
What domain extension is best for me to register?
There are four main top-level domains for you to choose from within the UK domain family. The choice will largely come down to the purpose of your website, and availability of your desired domain name.
- .uk is new, punchy, and very versatile. Consider .uk if you’re looking to move your local business online, start a new venture, or create a portfolio.
- .co.uk is the most established of our domain and an ideal choice for corporations wanting something familiar and trusted.
- .org.uk is perfect if you’re looking for an online home for a charity, club, or not-for-profit organisation.
- .me.uk is a great choice if you’re looking to build a site that’s all about you! This might be an online CV, blog, or personal branding site.
What’s the benefit of a UK domain?
We think having a UK domain is a great choice for so many reasons. We’ve listed a few them below:
- UK domains add local relevance to your online identity. Users, and customers, will immediately be able to see that you’re a UK brand
- 4 in 5 people in the UK have a preference for websites with a UK domain when searching or buying online
- UK domains may rank higher for searches made in the UK
- Be part of a growing market: the UK’s Internet economy is growing at a much faster rate than the wider UK economy, meaning it never has been more important to get you or your business online
Managing your domain
How long do I have use of my domain name for?
UK domains can be registered for between 1 and 10 years at a time. Speak to your registrar for advice on what would best suit your needs.
If you want to keep using your domain, you’ll need to renew your domain before it expires. This will mean it remains yours for as long as you want, and no one else will be able to register it.
How long before my domain name expires?
You can check when your domain is set to expire using the tool at the top of our renewing your domain page.
This information should also be readily available through your registrar.
When you register a domain, you’ll probably need to setup an account with the registrar. Make sure you keep your account details safe so you can access the important information about your domain, including expiry dates and renewal records.
How do I renew my domain name?
If you don’t want to lose your domain name and have it made available for purchase by other people, it’s essential that you renew your domain name before it expires.
Your registrar will be able to help you renew your domain.
If you’d like more information about the renewal process, or if you’d like to double check when your domain is due to expire, you can visit our advice page on how to renew your domain name.
What are the rules for domain name registration?
You can find all the rules of registration and use of domain names on our Nominet site.
Where can I find information on maintaining my domain?
If you already have a UK domain name, you can find information on maintaining your domain (such as transferring or cancelling the registration of the domain, or changing your contact details) on our Nominet site.
Can I host my website with a different company to the one I registered my domain with?
You don’t have to host your website with the same company you registered your domain name with. Changing your web host does involve some technical processes, but either your new web host or your current registrar should be able to help you with this.
Registrars and hosting companies
Are all registrars the same?
There are thousands of registrars to choose from, offering a range of different services.
While we cannot recommend one registrar over another, we have put together a page with advice on choosing a registrar that’s right for you.
You can also see the full list of current registrars on the Nominet website. These will be ordered randomly, and some will be shown as holding an “accredited” status. These registrars have committed to providing higher standards of data quality and customer service.
Are all hosting companies the same?
There are thousands of hosting companies to choose from, and on a top level they offer a very similar service. Similar to mobile phone companies, there are different tariffs available depending on your needs.
Differences between web hosts and tariffs might include bandwidth and storage requirements, data center location, shared vs dedicated hosting, and access to customer support. UK-based company, Venture Harbour, explains these considerations in more depth in their web host guide.
If you start a domain search you’ll find a list of different companies that you can host your domain with.
Who is my contract with?
You enter into a contract with your registrar, and this contract incorporates Nominet’s terms and conditions. You can find more information on these on our Nominet site.