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One year on from the historic triggering of Article 50 by the United Kingdom on 29 March 2017, a quietly published ‘Notice to stakeholders’ was released in Brussels by the Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology.

The details of which will have serious consequences for UK businesses that have bought, and are using .eu domain names.

Come 30 March 2019:

… persons who reside in the United Kingdom will no longer be eligible to register .eu domain names or, if they are .eu registrants, to renew .eu domain names registered before the withdrawal date… Registry for .eu will be entitled to revoke such domain name.

This suggests that not only will UK businesses not be able to use the .eu domain names that they’ve been using for many years, but that they will also not be able to redirect these previously used domains to a new domain name, as they’re not going to be allowed to renew them at all.

This means therefore, that they will have to surrender their domain names.

Why it matters

Search engines look at hundreds, if not thousands of different signals in their algorithms to determine which websites to rank in which order for their organic search results. One of these metrics includes the investigation of third party links and citations pointing to a website.

These count almost in the form of ‘votes’, so if all other metrics are equal, trusted votes affect the performance of a website in a positive sense.

Changing domains isn’t usually problem – but in this case it is

Businesses change their domain names all the time, and as long as they carry out a full SEO migration, which includes permanently redirecting the old domain to the new domain using a 301 server redirect, then the signals are passed to the new website, which in turn will preserve the performance (rankings & traffic), of the website.

As it stands with this latest news, .eu domains owned by UK companies and individuals will likely be re-purchased inside the EU after 30 March 2019.

In essence, direct competitors of UK businesses in the EU will be able to buy their old .eu domains.

Who’s affected?

In total, UK registrants own 317,000 .eu domains, which make up roughly a tenth of all the .eu domains registered according to The Register.

Alexa states however, that as of this month, there are only 5,310 .eu domains; representing a sliver at 0.531%, however this is only the mostly highly trafficked websites, so many more thousands will almost certainly be in existence.

The UK Government needs to contest this urgently in our Brexit negotiations.

The UK government should contest this notice and ensure that any business that already owns .eu domains in the UK will be allowed to keep using them.

At the very least, UK businesses should have the option to permanently redirect domain names bought in good faith to a new domain name.

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  • Nick Wilsdon

    It’s far more likely that the EU adopt the position of not allowing any post-withdrawal date (new) registrations rather than revoking domains that have been bought legally at the time of purchase. That also seems to be the interpretation from EURid.

    “The communication states that, based on the United Kingdom’s intent to withdraw from the European Union, undertakings and organisations that are established in the United Kingdom but not in the EU and natural persons who reside in the United Kingdom will no longer be eligible to register .eu domain names or, if they are .eu registrants, to renew .eu domain names registered before the withdrawal date.”

    In the entire history of ICANN – domain names have never been “revoked” AFAIK. Even when an extension is removed, i.e. YU (Yugoslavia), the registrants are provided with a alternative replacement. In the case of .SU (Soviet Union), ICANN offered the replacement IDN .RF domains – albeit that deal was deemed unacceptable by the Russian Registry. I would be very surprised if existing legal owners were not able to continue to renew their .EU domains long after we have left the union.

    • Nick Wilsdon

      Also worth pointing out that such a petty move by the European Commission or EURid would permanently sink any chance for the domain long-term, as many businesses across the union would view this as a potential political risk to .EU registration. The extensions would quickly become worthless.

      I wouldn’t mind seeing the end of this extension. Almost all registrations are defensive, to protect existing brands. You see an actively used .EU domain once in a blue-moon. There was never a clear business case for this extension, it was just a plan by ICANN to raise funds from those organisations vain enough to demand their own .sTLD.

  • Absolutely, there is a reason ICANN exists as a separate, non-political organisation. As you say hopefully they won’t do anything petty, or that’s the end of the .eu domains. Not massively used, but over the last 4 years I reckon I’ve worked with 3 businesses (one a major US/UK brand) using them. Let’s wait and see Nick!