Stephen Fry’s latest post includes the following explosion of despair:
“How come we British are just about the only nation on earth who have to make the tedious and entirely unnecessary three extra keystrokes every time we type a URL? I could be stephen.fr in France, stephen.za in South Africa, stephen.ru in Russia, stephen.nl in Holland, etc, etc, but here? Oh no, it’s stephen dot co dot bloody uk. How annoying is that?”
It should really be “stephen dot me dot bloody uk”, of course. “.co.uk” is really intended for commercial organisations, but because of its liberal registration policies, like the similar “.com” TLD it has been widely abused for other uses. As a result, the general public seems, not unsurprisingly, to be a little mystified as to what the TLDs and the U.K. SLDs actually mean.
It may still seem a little irritating having to type a few extra keystrokes, though of course you’re entirely free to register “stephen.com” instead, and having these fixed SLDs does make it a little harder for people to fraudulently set up sites that appear to belong to the British Government (for instance). Particularly now that internationalized domain names are becoming available… can you tell the difference between “.gov.uk” and “.gоv.uk”? I find it quite difficult myself, but the two are different.
Anyway, if you want the reasons for the “.co” or “.me” and a list of second-level domains, Wikipedia has one.