The global body that charts the course of the internet has voted to allow the creation of new website domain suffixes.
The board of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) voted in favour of the proposal to allow generic top-level domains (gTLDs) at a meeting in Singapore.
The move will see the release of new generic, brand and geographic domain name extensions such as .qantas, .music and .sydney, according to domain name registry operator AusRegistry International.
AusRegistry CEO Adrian Kinderis, who sits on the ICANN Generic Names Supporting Organisation Council, said the decision marked the start of an exciting new era for the industry.
"Today's decision is going to have a significant impact on the web as we know it and will pave the way for the next wave of online innovation," he said.
Some have feared that opening up new suffixes based on corporate brands could cause some confusion, however founder of Levins Consulting and former vice-president of ICANN Paul Levins said that the proposal should make things more convenient.
The requirements for applying for a gTLD are expected to make it a difficult proposition for individuals. Applications can take nine to 18 months to complete, the application fee is US$185,000 and a further fee of US$25,000 is payable each year. On top of that, applicants will need to run a registry.
While the price alone should be enough of a deterrent for cyber-squatters, there is also a set of checks and balances that applicants must pass. Checking for trademark infringements, making sure government policies are met and mediating third-party disputes form are all part of what is handled during the application process.
For example, "If Sydney wasn't interested in adopting the address, and I wanted to apply for it because I thought I could make money out of it, I would have to go to the City of Sydney and the NSW government and say 'I want to apply and I want your agreement, please'," Levins said.
However, there is likely to be competition on names that are not geographically related. Levins said businesses wanting to apply would be served on a first-come, first-served basis. This could potentially open up competition over unbranded, but prominent domains, for example, between car manufacturers over the .car domain, where each applicant would be equally eligible to purchase the domain.
ICANN will accept applications from registries that want to operate new top-level domains from 12 January 2012 to 12 April 2012.