2020 - The year in review, winners and losers

2020: The Year in review: .uk Winners and Losers

Losers: Nominet

Winners: Cheaters

A heavy 2020 is coming to an end.

How did it affect .uk domain industry, secondary .uk market, .uk dropcatching?

Here is DOMAINLORE’s rundown on the winners and losers of the passing year.


Nominet (self-entitled as “guardians of the .UK domain name registry” – fail)

Nominet lost about 2.2million .uk domains during 2020.

~/data/nominet-zonefile/20191230$ wc -l db-dump-20191230.csv

13045476 db-dump-20191230.csv

~/data/nominet-zonefile/20201226$ wc -l db-dump-20201226.csv

10851631 db-dump-20201226.csv

Current registry size - 10.8mil domains. Losing 22% of the registry in a year?

If you look at Nominet’s 2020 registry stats it’s apparent that about 1mil was lost after “free .uk” registrations from the last year were not renewed and dropped in September.

Another million of Second level (.uk) was lost between Dec 2019 and Jan 2020.

Third-level (.co.uk) was in a constant decline through 2019, but the second level .uk was growing, which might have suggested that the customers are starting to warm-up to the shorter .uk extension.

However, came 2020 and it shows that the new .uk is still a consumer fiasco.

In his “Registry performance” of the annual member`s letter Nominet CEO takes pride about “lockdown surge in registrations” and selective month on month growth (“Since August, we have seen growth in the registration figures with a 27% increase in November compared to 2019”), but fails to provide a true picture of what’s happening inside the registry, where .co.uk has a YoY marginal increase of ~50k, but the Second level (.uk) is now 2.2 million less.

Nominet continues to pretend the .uk registry is not living through the crisis.

Retail .uk registrants still have no idea why .uk domain is better for them and why they now have to pay double prices to preserve their co.uk/.uk pairs.

Unsurprisingly, many decide not to bother and choose what’s previously known to them.

Have a look outside - the economy is in tatters and is only supported by QE money printing. Weary consumers are rightfully confused on why pay double for “duplicate” domain names?

Even during such a disastrous year for many, Nominet has not offered meaningful price concessions for .uk registrants. 10% discount on renewals during March and April was just “a check-box” exercise, especially after asking every .co.uk registrant to shell out 100% extra starting last (and for some this) year.

Salut the mighty God’s grace: “the Board accepted a recommendation to maintain the wholesale price of .UK domains at its current level of £3.90.”.


Nominet should have used COVID crisis as an opportunity to covertly right their wrongs and make .uk domains free for .co.uk holders for the foreseeable future. (before .uk overtakes .co.uk).

Nominet does not need extra money (except to sustain meteoric rises in CEO/Board salaries).
Nominet, as a technology company, if true "guardians of the .uk registry", should have thought what is good for the registry, not how to milk and spend elsewhere their excess money earned by forking the registry.
(Nominet's "ambitious goal" to "improve the lives of 1m young people through technology" is such a poor distraction, when they are destroying the co.uk/uk growth opportunities and degrade their own registry in the meantime.

The idea of “shorter and snappier” .uk was for a modern extension, replacing archaic co.uk, competing with .eu (which many UK consumer were choosing, alas, no longer) and even to overhaul the mighty .COM (for UK market). What they achieved is a forked registry, where the masses continue to adhere to the old .co.uk based on their early instincts and afraid to take a step and embrace the future, instead making financial choices not to pay for their .uk halves, leaving them in the hands of different owners. What growth .uk registry (and .uk developed ecosystem) might achieve, when that same proverbial growth.uk and growth.co.uk are now owned by different people? .co.uk owner must be less motivated now to develop the domain, knowing that a competing idea can be built on growth.uk. He probably regrets dropping it, but perhaps he had no justification to start paying double fees to Nominet either.

If Nominet’s idea was indeed a future with a better and shorter domain extension for the United Kingdom, it should have done their utmost to prevent the registry from going into a split-personality crisis.

.uk will eventually overtake .co.uk. Though, it’s a matter of time. Even longer time now. Nominet should have let registrants take that time, and as long as necessary. Until they saw .uk taking the lead. Only then they should have started charging those who wanted to keep .co.uk for some historical reasons.

Nominet receives title "a Loser of the Year".

Also, During 2020, Nominet by their inactivity (or a lack of a will) to enforce their own registrant policies, have led domain catching industry to a greed catharsis.

A winner turned loser, turned losers into winners.

That is another chapter:


So, who won in 2020?

In January 2020 I published my first post on cheaters and ghost tags.

First post was about the situation around UKBackorder, second - about that infamous Bulgarian clan.

Nominet was presented with loads and loads of evidence on connected and linked tags, but they failed to take any action. If you and me are allowed to catch domains worth £££ thousands, why “the guardians” are not allowed to make a quick buck here and there by accepting whoever comes to apply to become a .uk registrar, old AUP policies published by someone (stupid!) do no longer matter.

So fake tags excelled in 2020. And 2020 can be justly called “a year of cheaters”.

However, neither Rob nor Kalin are receiving a title of the “2020 Cheating Winner”.

Another “skilled” individual has taken the greed to the whole new level.

As you must have guessed, I am talking about Ben (Jones) Hay.

Public should know their “winners”. With winning comes scrutiny. If you are a celebrity, get ready to be examined. Cross-examined. And cross-cross examined.

Will your plot fall apart?

My history of talking to Ben dates back to mid 2019, where he, under the name of “Andy Dickson” and an “umbrella” (nominee company owned by 90-year old Chinese lady with 1000s other director nominations) started buying domains on DomainLore. After a while, the account was suspended for a non-payment on LL domain. Ben assured me he had nothing to do with that, “Andy” was doing all the buying, no longer in charge, Ben is no longer associated with the company …etc..blah blah. Today I checked those early domains bought by “Andy & co” and guess which tag they sit on?

Later on, Ben was re-instated on DL as he promised not to make any rookie mistakes. Fair enough, everyone should be given a second chance, I hope DL sellers do not mind, so Ben came back with a new account. Mainly as a catcher and as a seller now.

In a few months time, from an unknown domain buyer and a newcomer to the dropcatching industry, Ben turned himself into a prolific domain catcher.

Ben was also very anti-cheaters and was often at the post of spotting someone trying to run fake tags:

Can you please keep an eye on this tag as i suspect rob's group is behind it based on when EPP's was sent.




And just less a month ago:

From: Domain Catchers <contact@domaincatchers.co.uk>
To: DomainLore Auctions <auctions@domainlore.uk>
Date: Tue, 1 Dec 2020 17:43:10 +0000

Hi Denys,

Can you please keep an eye on this brand-new tag ... the tag is only 2 weeks old and has just two domains on the tag... it started chasing domains 1 day after the tag was created!



Knowing my stance against fake tags, Ben sent me many tips on what he thought were cheaters and who was behind them.

You have pioneered the domain industry by all accounts and you have built a very good auction platform, RobM and Tool.Domains has damaged the industry that much its nearly beyond repair... especially if we start seeing more and more tags created to assist those cheating.
i dont think you would cheat and i hope you never do
because if you did then that means the domain industry has gone forever because then everyone will just start cheating and there will be no point in even trying to compete ...

But watching Ben’s success in catching (and hearing rumours) I was often wondering if he might be doing some shady things too…

I would help bring the cheats down because thats the only way the industry will recover,
I'll be stopping Kalin. Not with the introduction of new TAGs.
Just your own tag is good enough, I think you believe i use more than 1 tag but its not possible to use more than 1 tag to do what i do
The problem with these new tags is that its highly unlikely a "Newbie" domainer is going to join nominet, instantly catch contested domains then instantly try to sell on DAN.. Clearly its a tag group behind it..

Ben was very convincing. Notwithstanding the leaks I received about him (of running 5 tags) and further investigation by @whois_search I tried to believe that he was genuine.

But a recently released bombshell report on several tags linked to Ben’s immediate family was simply appalling.

I don’t know why whoever published the report has removed it from pastebin now, but it did provide a damning (and zero doubt) evidence of family links for the top winning catcher of 2020.

Maria Jones + Jamie Hay
Ben Hay (Jones) [BHD/BHAYDOM]

Maria Jones + Christopher Green
Joe Green [JGREEN]

Ben Hay (Jones) + Lisa Marie Thornley [LTHORNLEY]
1+ children?

I went to Facebook to see provided links and all these family photos (and Grimsby Plastering) are indeed all over there.

Nominet must also have photos of all those TAG holders (LTHORNLEY / JGREEN) which I mistakenly attributed to RobM in early 2020.

Ben receives a title of the “2020 Cheating Winner”. He has a good method which could have allowed him to compete honestly, but the greed has totally consumed him.

Now he completely dominates drop-catching with his BHAYDOM, JGREEN, LTHORNLEY tags and I am hearing another two tags which demonstrate similar catching pattern.

So, apparently, the very first leak about Ben having access to 5 tags was true!

I will end with his January 2020 quote on cheaters:

My goal has been to build one of the best catchers in the industry without going to the low level of Rob and others.
If i cant compete because of cheaters then i will simply give my code out to the public on Acorn so every domainer can catch domains at the same rate as me and it will then kill any cheaters for good

Curtains, ladies and gentlemen.

Finished reading?

Happy New Year!

Let’s hope karma police deals with cheaters in 2021 (and beyond).

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