.uk domain name finally launches, first site goes to Stephen Fry

.uk domain names are available for the first time ever after Nominet announced the launch with the world’s largest welcome sign unveiled at London’s Heathrow Airport and Stephen Fry has become the first person to launch a site with the suffix.

Related: Nine new domain names up for grabs as ICANN expansion continues

The ‘welcometothe.uk’ sign measures in almost 10,000sq ft, can reportedly be seen from 65,000ft away and is 40 per cent larger than the Holywood sign with 20 men taking eight hours just to unravel it.

Popularity in the new suffix is expected to be high with research indicating that three quarters of the country prefer sites that end with ‘.uk’ when looking to make purchases online and it compares to the likes of Germany [.de] and France [.fr].

“We wanted to welcome the arrival of the brand new .uk domain in a big way – so why not do it with the world’s biggest welcome sign? said Eleanor Bradley, COO of Nominet. “The new .uk is for people who want a short, memorable domain in the UK's favorite namespace, and we've found this new domain also has more appeal amongst our tech-savvy, digitally-engaged population.”

When presented with a number of different suffixes including .company, .business, and .london, an overwhelming 93 per cent of internet users plumped for .uk as the first choice, with Nominet adding that 73 per cent of businesses want the .uk option as well as .co.uk.

Upwards of 10 million existing domain name holders will be given first refusal on he shorter suffix and have five years to choose whether or not to use it in addition to or instead of the current domain.

Related: Nominet u-turns on .uk domains

Domains that aren’t already taken will be offered on a first-come, first-served basis with a charge of £3.50 for a single year and £2.50 per year if multiple years are registered – the same price as the existing .co.uk domains