Why the .co in .co.uk?


It might be embedded into the heads as "normal" for citizens in the United Kingdom by now, rendering them unaware, but if Americans were ever to study at the URLs they were visiting, they might venture to ask the question why. Why, for example, is Amazon's UK site hosted at amazon.co.uk and not simply amazon.uk?

Truth be told, it’s just one of those unexplainable quirks of the domain name system. Countries have their own individual controls over the administration of their country codes, which means country-specific standards, such as .com.br for Brazil and co.kr for South Korea. Once these are established, these standards get awfully difficult to change as time goes on.

In the near future, however, it all can change.

Nominet, the UK domain registry, is proposing a .co-free option. This would cause a fundamental marketing shift that would give Amazon the possibility to host at amazon.uk in the above example.

As a global marketer, this is one of those situations that continues to become more interesting with time. I recently spent a few weeks in New Zealand and constantly observed their usage of .co.nz domain names. It really makes an American like me wonder why we have this unwritten entitlement to .com domains and most other countries prefer their country code domains. With all else equal, we would be using .us domains as the equivalent.

I'll continue to post more about globalization items here since it is increasingly becoming a main focus of mine these days.