What Nominet did next - why the UK's domain name registry is stretching its commercial wings

We find out why Nominet is moving into new markets, how that fits in with its purpose, and the what challenges its faced.

When Russell Haworth joined Nominet as Chief Executive Officer back in 2015, he saw an organisation that was - in his own words - "ready for change."

Perhaps that first impression should have come as no surprise, either to Haworth himself or to the managers and members responsible for the running and good governance of the UK's venerable domain name registry.

Now more than two decades old, Nominet was established as a not-for-profit organisation, charged with the task of administering ‘.UK' domains. Vital work, certainly, and also technologically demanding, but from the perspective of a new CEO joining the company from a commercial background, Nominet had the potential to be a much bigger player in Britain's IT ecosystem. "I wanted to look to the future to see what Nominet could evolve into," Haworth says.

In his view, evolution was not only desirable but necessary. For one thing, demand for domains with a .UK suffix was flattening out. "It's a mature market," he says. "And these days, you can set up a store on Amazon or eBay. To run a business, you don't need to build your own site and buy a domain."

It would be wrong to suggest that Nominet's domain name registry operation isn't being kept busy, but the company's own figures do confirm a fairly flat market. For instance, in 2018, the organisation was managing close to 10 million third level domains but the numbers dropped off slightly between January and December.

Against that background, Haworth has taken the view that Nominet should expand into new areas - most notably digital security, spectrum management and the internet of Things (IoT). "Financially, we were in a strong position to do that," he says. "We have strong balance sheet from which to invest in new projects."


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