Domain Name Rules

Once you’ve got your business name, you need a domain name to secure its online identity. Before you rush out and register one though you should be aware that, as with business names, there are domain name rules you need to adhere to.

The exact rules governing domain names vary according to the type of domain name you choose, as well as factors like the country with which the domain name is associated and the Internet Registry Company that manages it.

General rules and restrictions

You need to bear in mind the following rules and restrictions when attempting to register a domain name:

  • they can only use letters, numbers and hyphens – no other characters are allowed
  • with a few exceptions, they must be between 3 and 63 characters in length (excluding the top level domain)
  • hyphens cannot be used at the beginning or end of a domain name
  • you can’t use a domain name that has already been registered by someone else
  • domain names are not case sensitive
  • domain names can be in breach of another company’s trademark so you should be certain that yours does not infringe on someone’s intellectual property in this way

.uk and .com top level domain restrictions

In the UK the most common domain name endings are still .com and .uk. There are certain guidelines and restrictions that apply to these specific top level domains (TLDs), for example:

 .uk

  • Registration levels – Under this TLD, people can register .uk, .co.uk, .ltd.uk, .me.uk, .net.uk, .org.uk and .plc.uk
  • Residency – Only .uk requires a registrant to be based in the UK
  • Whois Privacy – Contact details can only be hidden if the registrant is a private individual and not a business

.com

  • Residency – Can be registered by anyone anywhere in the world
  • Transfers – Typically you have to wait 60 days after registering a .com TLD before you can transfer it to another registrar

Other generic top level domain restrictions

The continual release of new generic TLDs means the choice available when registering a domain has never been greater. Many of the rules that apply to more traditional TLDs apply to the newer ones, but there are some that are specific to them. Some notable examples are:

.pro

  • Registrants must be members of a profession

.name

  • Changes to contacts not allowed for five days after registration
  • Whois Privacy – Not allowed at registration or within first five days

Country code top level domain restrictions

There are instances where it might make sense for you to register domains with country code TLDs. However, as with other TLDs, there are rules that you need to be aware of and, in some cases, might even prevent you from doing so. Here are examples of restrictions that apply to some prominent country code TLDs:

.au – Australia

  • Registration levels – .asn.au, .com.au, .net.au, .id.au, .org.au
  • Residency – An Australian presence is required
  • auDA registry requires Reseller to indicate on website that you are an OpenSRS Reseller
  • Registrant transfers add two years to registration period and incur a charge
  • Two weeks need to be allowed to process changes of ownership

.ca – Canada

  • Residency – A presence in Canada is required
  • Whois Privacy – Enabled by default; no extra charge
  • Reseller must display the CIRA Registrant Agreement, in full and ensure that registrants consent to the conditions of the agreement
  • Registrant must provide first name, last name, email, phone number, and complete address for domain registration and all updates

.cn – China

  • Registration levels – As per a directive from the China Internet Network Information Centre (CNNIC) which came into effect in January 2010, registrations by overseas Registrars are suspended indefinitely, although existing domains can be renewed

.eu – European Community

  • Residency – Must have a presence in the EU
  • Transfers – One year added to registration term; up to 21 days should be allowed for transfer to complete
  • If not renewed by expiry date, domain is deleted at end of the expiry month. For transfers, you must specify at least one nameserver

.ru – Russia

  • Registration levels – .ru, .com.ru
  • Transfers – Not supported; ownership changes require a trade

.us – United States

  • Residency – US Nexus requirements
  • Nameservers must be located in the US

.za – South Africa

  • Registration levels – .co.za, .net.za, .org.za, .web.za
  • Transfers – No charge for transfers; no change to registration period
  • .net.za, .org.za and .web.za can be registered for 1-10 years and require administration and billing contacts in addition to owner and technical contacts

There are too many generic and country code TLDs to list, but hopefully you’re now familiar with some of the general domain name rules, as well as some of those that apply to specific TLDs.

If you have any questions about domain name rules or a query concerning a particular TLD, feel free to contact us here.