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How domain names work

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 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

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

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.

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.

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, 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 creating email addresses. But it’s important to know that you don’t have to host your website with your registrar if you don’t want to.

Nominet is a profit-with-a-purpose organisation, and one of the world’s largest Internet registries. Nominet 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

  • Tip 1 – Make sure your domain name reflects what you do
  • Tip 2 – Make it memorable
  • Tip 3 – Making up words
  • Tip 4 – Is it futureproof?
  • Tip 5 – Use an appropriate domain name extension
  • Tip 6 – Get some opinions on your shortlist
  • Tip 7 – Conduct some research
  • Tip 8 – Get hold of the variants

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.

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 punchy and very versatile. Consider .uk if you’re looking to move your local business online, start a new venture, or create a portfolio.
  • is the most established of our domains and an ideal choice for corporations wanting something familiar and trusted.
  • is perfect if you’re looking for an online home for a charity, club, or not-for-profit organisation.
  • 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.
  • .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 has never been more important to get you or your business online