First Minister Carwyn Jones this morning announced that the Welsh Government will drop the “.gov.uk” internet domain name and adopt “.wales” and “.cymru”.
Speaking at a major conference of Icann, the body which coordinates the internet’s global domain name system, Mr Jones said he was “thrilled that Wales will finally have a natural home on the Web”.
He said: “Names are an important part of how we communicate our identity to each other. And that’s why I’m so pleased that from September we will be able to register domain names in .wales and .cymru – we will finally have a way of using our websites and email addresses to reflect the identity we feel in our hearts.
“That’s why I am also pleased to announce here today that the Welsh Government will be moving our online presence from .gov.uk to the new domains as part of our renewal of how we serve and interact with citizens in Wales.”
Afterwards, the first minister said bodies supported by the Welsh Government will eventually be expected to adopt the domain names.
He said: “We’ve been looking at this for a while. There was an issue regarding security because we’re part of the Government’s secure network, but that’s been overcome and it’s important we give a lead and we’ll be doing just that.
“We’ll be doing it and of course over time we expect those bodies that we fund to roll out the domain names as well… It will take some time to roll it out, there are some costs that have to be factored in and we don’t expect that to happen overnight; but we will be looking to change as soon as practically possible.”
Mr Jones dismissed the idea it could be seen as Wales distancing itself from the UK, saying: “Scotland already has a domain name. So does London.
“You’ve got .london and no-one has yet suggested that London is in some way trying to leave the UK; I think it’s possible to have our separate identities – I don’t think having a domain name .wales and .cymru in some way leads to the break-up of the UK.”
Stressing that Wales has to “constantly fight to be seen and to be heard,” he said the cost of the Welsh Government transition would be “in the thousands” but “not a huge amount of money in the scheme of things”.
When asked if he wanted to see the UK Government’s Wales Office also switch to the new domain names, he said: “I’m sure the Wales Office would want to give a lead on these issues but it’s a matter for them.”
He used the opportunity of addressing the packed conference hall to give the international audience a crash-course on Wales and joked that the Welsh Government had no plans to take back the “lost land of England.”
Having made his first remarks in Welsh, he said: “As you can see, Welsh is completely different to English. Welsh is a language that was spoken on this island when the Romans were here.
“English is the descendant language of the language spoken by the people who came after the Romans left… Indeed, the word Wales means ‘the land of the foreigners’ in the Anglo-Saxon language.
“In the Welsh language, England is rendered as Lloegr, which means ‘the lost land’. Before anyone can get too worried, I have to say the Welsh Government has no current plans to recover the lost land by military force.”
He added: “I know this is an international audience and many of you may not know much about Wales and its place in the UK. Wales is one of the four constituent nations of the UK state.
“There are only three million of us but nevertheless we very much cherish the fact that we have an autonomous government within the UK and, of course, independence in sport, particularly when it comes to rugby and football. I can’t say too much about England’s World Cup performance, all I can say is that I know England didn’t qualify for the final stages this year for the first time since 1958.
“It’s not too bad, because 1958 was the last time we qualified for the World Cup, when we got to the quarter final and lost to Brazil one nil.”
A phased launch of the .wales and .cymru domains will begin in September, with general availability from spring 2015.
The Welsh Government is urging holders of a trademark to “act now for the best possible chance to secure the corresponding domain name by applying to the Trademark Clearing House by July.” Businesses in Wales will have a further opportunity to secure domain names and can register their interest online at http://ourhomeonline.org.uk/sign-up-for-updates
Welsh Liberal Democrat AM Eluned Parrott said: “The .wales and .cymru domains will be an extra tool for businesses and other organisations to sell Wales to the world. I would encourage them all to seriously consider using a .wales or .cymru domain either instead of or alongside their existing web address.
“The Welsh Government has a role to play to ensure a strong take up, and I’m glad they’re leading the way by using the domain themselves. The Welsh Government must also put pressure on domain name registrar companies to price these new domains at a reasonable level, so smaller businesses looking to use these domains won’t be priced out of an excellent opportunity.”
Conservative AM Suzy Davies said: “The advent of the .wales and .cymru domain names represent a significant step forward in Wales’ online presence. It’s entirely right that the Welsh Government adopts these domains early and hope to hear that the Assembly will be doing so too.
“We talk about ‘Brand Wales’. This is one way to help businesses, government bodies and the third sector start to carve out Brand Wales’ unique place within the more established identity that the UK already has in the world of commerce.
“Online transactions are an increasingly lucrative way for Welsh businesses to boost orders, so making it easier to identify Wales-based suppliers should help promote the Welsh economy. Other parts of the world have led the way in sub-state geographical domain names, which have been particularly successful in regions with a minority language.
“The .wales and .cymru domain names can change the way everyone living in or interested in Wales will engage with the internet.”
Plaid Cymru MP Bethan Jenkins said: “I am pleased to see the Welsh Government taking on the new Welsh domains and leading by example to Welsh businesses. The new domain names have been long awaited and Plaid Cymru has campaigned consistently for them to be created and adopted.
“The new domains will give businesses a distinct advantage and it is clearly welcome news that both domains will get equal status and resources and that they will create jobs in Wales.”