We peek inside the BBC's secret domain-name stash

The BBC owns thousands of internet domain names it doesn't want you to know about.

In response to a Freedom of Information Act request late last month, the broadcaster disclosed a list of 154 domains it owns, but decided to keep details of at least 3,000 more to itself.

These 'secret' domains, virtually all of which are listed freely online if you know where to look, include the names of dozens of its presenters, magazines and DVDs, as well as perennial TV characters from shows going back to the 1950s.

But some shows get more domain love than others.

Saturday night favourite Doctor Who, along with its less-impressive spin-off shows Torchwood and the Sarah Jane Adventures, have hundreds of domains associated with them.

The BBC owns domains covering the Daleks and the Cybermen, as well as the names of fictional products and places that appear in the series, such as Lazarus Laboratories and Bubble Shock, and domains used in alternate reality games that tie in with the shows.

Other Doctor Who domains include officialdoctorwho.co.uk, officialdoctorwhosite.co.uk, doctorwhomonsterinvasion.co.uk, dwmonsterinvasion.co.uk, doctorwhoinvasion.co.uk, bbcdoctorwho.co.uk, bbcdoctorwholiveshow.co.uk, doctorwhoondvd.co.uk, doctorwhovortex.co.uk, dozens more, and all the .com equivalents.

Even some axed programmes get virtual blanket coverage in the BBC's portfolio.

Top Of The Pops, which ran weekly for decades but nowadays only gets an airing on Christmas day, has "totp" domains registered in dozens of foreign countries, including Paraguay, Latvia and Libya. Not even Doctor Who gets that kind of protection.

In the BBC's response to the FOI request, it said it was only disclosing some domains that had live sites, and that it had "omitted some domain names covering forthcoming television programmes and storylines so as not to provide any spoilers."

With that in mind, and in anticipation of the forthcoming World Cup, we wonder what the Beeb plans to do with BigMexicanWave.com, which it registered at the end of April.

Other mysterious recent registrations include RoxysSalon.co.uk - which we're told probably refers to a small business in EastEnders - FaceRocket.com and MyMoosh.com.

The Beeb also seems to have gone on a registration spree with its TV and radio presenters' names about ten years ago, when it picked up scores of domains, including most of its radio DJs, such as Nicky-Campbell.com and news presenters like RajeshMirchandani.com.

Some of the domains the BBC still owns appear to cover presenters who no longer have full-time gigs with the company.

The BBC, in the response to the FOI request, said that it would not disclose certain domains on the grounds that the information might help cybersquatters.

As such, it was coy about its large portfolio of .com domains, preferring to release only a subset relating to overseas web sites.

"BBC World Service adheres to a domain name policy of registering one .com domain per language site and, in some cases, a domain local to the core audience for the content," the statement said.

These domains, such as bbcromanian.com and bbcthai.com, represent the bulk of the ,com domains the BBC disclosed. But it has hundreds more, usually registering the .com when it also has the .co.uk.

It also has hundreds of .info domains, many of which it registered when the .info name launched ten years ago and still owns, such as lastofthesummerwine.info, mastermind.info and andypandy.info.

The information is all already freely available, without an FOI request, using the same tools and commercial services already used by cybersquatters and legitimate domain speculators alike.

Even with roughly 3,300 domain names under registration, the corporation is still not blowing massive chunks of licence-payers' cash.

Most domains are sold for about £5 per year, although the BBC is likely paying more due to the fact that it uses MarkMonitor, an enterprise-grade registrar focused on brand protection.

According to BBC policy, all domain names registered by its commercial arm, BBC Worldwide, must not start with "BBC" or end in .co.uk. BBC Worldwide registrations are also funded out of commercial proceeds rather than the licence fee.

In its FOI response, the BBC said it plans to put its domain management function up for renewal in an EU procurement process later this year.