Is now the time to buy digital real estate in the UK?

So lately 99.9% of the news coming out of the UK has been about one topic – Brexit. While this is a hot topic for good reason, there’s another event taking place that I think most people will miss, but could turn into a major opportunity for some people.

We all know that buying a house in London is expensive, damn expensive, like, makes San Francisco looks like a deal kind of expensive. But what about digital real estate in England?

Here’s what’s happening and where there “might” be an opportunity for some domain investors.

  • The .UK extension was recently made available to existing registrants of Englands primary domain extension .co.uk
  • This was a time-limited offer for people who already owned matching .CO.UK domains, and, well, time’s up
  • Any domains that weren’t claimed are going to auction, here’s the scoop from NameJet:

These .UK domain names have been held in reserve by the registry on behalf of .CO.UK registrants allow them to register their corresponding .UK domain name. The window to exercise that right has expired.

This creates a one-time-only opportunity to acquire these potentially high-value .UK names in the drop.

Our partner, SnapNames, is currently taking backorders for these 1.8 millionnames and will facilitate auctions on names that they catch in the drop with multiple backorders.

(Source – NameJet)

You can download the full list of 1.8M domains that are going to auction or search using the same link.

Now back to the potential investment opportunity. I’ll be the first to tell you that I have no clue if any of these domains would be good investments. I’ve never been a big ccTLD investor nor do I understand the dynamics of the UK domain market. On top of that, I don’t know how many people will want to buy .UK domains, especially if there’s an existing, already well-known business running on the corresponding .CO.UK

What I do know is that there are very likely some real diamonds in there, finding them will probably require quite a bit of research and maybe getting some advice from someone who knows the market better.

My first step will be to talk to someone in the UK that has invested in domains to get their take on it. Then I’ll take it from there. That being said, and like the title of my post says, this could be the best time to buy digital real estate in the UK, or the best time in a long time.

What do you think? Is there an opportunity here? I want to hear from you, comment and let your voice be heard!

{ 19 comments… add one }

  • Ivan R June 26, 2019, 1:40 pm

    Should be an interesting opportunity, but potential buyers must check for trademarks. Not just in the US, but in the UK/EU as well to ensure they are not bidding on something that could be lost via UDRP/legal process.

    Reply
  • tommy butler June 26, 2019, 1:44 pm

    Dont wast your time buying these up if you look at the .co.uk value they have been devalued and the .Uk has just amde matters worse.

    Reply
  • John McCormac June 26, 2019, 1:50 pm

    As Ivan mentioned above, the trademark issue will be important. The .UK (as opposed to the .UK ccTLD) is still very much an unproven market. The ccTLDs are the rocks upon which many a .COM domainer has financially perished. If one doesn’t know the market then it is just like throwing darts at a dartboard and hoping for a bullseye. (Think of the .EU land rush and the collapse of English language portfolios and domain name values.) People still think .co.uk by default and it will take time for a switch. Any domainer investing in .UK should be looking at a five year hold before there is some kind of stability in the market. There will be a lot of burger flipping in the next few months with keyword domain names being flipped but there is the danger that it could turn into another .EU (ironic given that the UK is in the process of leaving the EU) if it is hammered with domainers who don’t understand ccTLD dynamics and are basing their expectations purely on .COM experience and values.

    Reply
    • Ivan R June 26, 2019, 4:13 pm

      Speaking of a five year holding period. In five years between June 25, 2014 and 2019, based on what I can see through EstiBot:

      About 340,000 public sales were reported for .com domains;
      .co.uk in the same time period, about 860;
      .uk had about 30 sales.

      Even granted that many private sales don’t get reported, and there are expected gaps for ccTLDs, that’s a very big disparity. If you can control for acquisition cost, could also be an opportunity. You just have to target a very high return to account for time spent researching names for acquisition, the cost of acquisition, and time spend selling inventory.

      Reply
      • John McCormac June 27, 2019, 6:15 am

        The launch of .UK was problematic, to say the least. Some of the regulations changed during the five year period. The registration fee also seems to have dropped. There was also a lot of uncertainty.

        Most businesses seemed to put off registering their .UK based on prior rights until the last few weeks. I’m not sure that Estibot accurately covers ccTLD markets. There is a lot of activity on UK domainer forums and those figures for .co.uk seem extremely low. The real sales in .UK won’t start to appear until the release of those 1.8 million domain names in the next month. However, it is a more complicated land rush than a clean launch. The last thing that .UK deserves is to turn into another .EU fiasco with most of the domain names being plundered and never reaching ordinary domainers and registrants. If that happens, then it will be business as usual with .co.uk as the primary subdomain. The .UK would take a few years to recover but it would not be anywhere close to being a .co.uk competitor.

        Reply
  • Snoopy June 26, 2019, 3:48 pm

    These aren’t “potentially high-value”, even .us would be 10x more valuable, the .UK rollout has been a disaster and everyone use .co.uk.

    Reply
    • Ethan June 26, 2019, 5:33 pm

      “the .UK rollout has been a disaster”

      Is that your assumption or an analysis made by an authoritative institution?

      Reply
      • Snoopy June 26, 2019, 5:54 pm

        Ethan, do you actually know about this tld or are you just trying to start another argument?

        Reply
        • Ethan June 26, 2019, 6:48 pm

          I don’t really know about this TLD. Do you?

          Reply
          • Snoopy June 26, 2019, 9:53 pm

            I thought that might be the case. Good day to you sir.

    • John McCormac June 27, 2019, 6:25 am

      The problem with assigning any value is that there is no market yet. What this actually looks like, in historical terms, something similar to the introduction of .BIZ and .INFO gTLDs. The original idea for .UK was to be a kind of managed subdomain where some kind of entitlement to register had to be proven first. That’s a great way to ensure that such a TLD will not get high volumes of registrations. It is easy to go from a managed TLD to an open TLD but it is very difficult to go the other way. The .UK would definitely not be as valuable when the .co.uk version of the domain exists. This would be another .COM/.CO siutuation where the .uk site loses traffic to the .co.uk site because most people think in terms of .co.uk.

      Reply
  • Rob June 26, 2019, 5:36 pm

    What Registrars can Non-UK Citizens use to Register .uk domains?

    Thanks,

    Reply
    • Fat Anon June 27, 2019, 10:05 am

      Dynadot works ok for me.

      Reply
      • Rob June 27, 2019, 3:10 pm

        Thanks

        Reply
  • Eugene Fraxby June 26, 2019, 7:34 pm

    I’m from UK and apart from registering some .uk domains related to an active website where I have the .com and .co.uk variations, I haven’t bothered registering any where I already only own the co.uk. It was just a money grab move by Nominet and I rarely see any websites using .uk nor see any .uk in advertising. I don’t have much co.uk either anyway, have always considered it’s best to focus mainly with .com.

    Reply
  • tommy butler June 26, 2019, 10:20 pm

    Sorry was rushed yesterday when posted.
    Lets start with .UK in a few years time might not be a .UK the simple reason if Scotland goes independent then there is no entity called UK. With Scotland now using .Scot its starting to be used here. Then problem with .UK is two things. When the people running .Uk name space increased overnight the cost domain by 100% it was time to change strategy. Same time they then instead of giving the .UK to .Co.UK owners they then charged for it. As owner of /Co.Uk your now sorting being forced to sort take .UK to protect your business that build up for last 20 years.

    Big problems for UK name space as another factor is Brexit if your going to trade in Global market you need .com domain. Over last 2 to 3 years dropped about 800 plus .co.uk domains. not even tried to sell them just dumped them now down to about 75 be dumping another 20 this month. On another note been buying more .com domains for last 3 years must admit pleased with outcome of that. .UK name space is not what used to be. saying that still some value in domains.

    Reply
    • John McCormac June 27, 2019, 6:49 am

      If the UK fragments and Scotland leaves, then .SCOT will become the de facto Scottish ccTLD. The best example would be how the .CAT has become the de facto ccTLD for Catalonia. Web usage levels in .SCOT are still quite low compared to .CAT (I ran web usage surveys on all the new gTLDs, the legacy non-COM gTLDs and about 30 million .COM domains recently.) Usage on .co.uk is still quite strong (most ccTLDs are a lot more heavily used than gTLDs). The brand protection shakedown by Nominet looked bad but I don’t think that .UK would have been financially viable if .co.uk registrants were just given the equivalent .uk domain. The whole thing didn’t look well thought out.

      There is another possible side-effect of Brexit in that many businesses selling into the UK might register a .UK if they don’t have the existing .co.uk. Even with Northern Ireland, some businesses have to have a .IE, a .UK (or .co.uk) and a .eu. If the UK fragments, then a .SCOT (or .WALES or .CYMRU) might have to be added to that “must register” list. It will be interesting to see if there are any .COM spikes on UK hosters over the next few months. Even the whole prior rights thing is a bit iffy as businesses don’t generally target generic domain names if they can help it and many generic terms are long gone.

      Reply
      • Ivan R June 27, 2019, 11:29 am

        There is really no good recent example. The break up of Czechoslovakia took place well before .com bubble or rapid growth of e-commerce. Perhaps we can look at regional nTLDs as such an example, where .uk becomes like a .cat. Over 107k registrations there with over 30% development. (using NamePulse.com data for CAT). Obviously it’s not apples to apples, CAT has strong cultural links and .co.uk was in use (like com) much longer for online presence in the UK. Still, something to consider.

        Reply
  • Prometheus June 30, 2019, 3:10 pm

    .UK will be huge. But it will take a few years. The extension is looking great. Much better than .us and .eu. .CO.UK sucks, no one outside of the UK would buy a .co.uk domains. It sucks, so naturally .UK will beat it badly eventually.

    Reply

Leave a Comment