ICANN, the international body in charge of managing Internet domains, has given the official go-ahead to the creation of a European top level domain, .eu. At a meeting of its managing committee, the body authorised its president, Vint Cerf, to sign the agreement with Eurid, the consortium chosen by the European Commission as official caretaker of the new domain name.
The negotiations between Icann and Eurid lasted nearly six months, starting in October 2004, when the European consortium announced it hoped to "quickly arrive at an argreement". No explanation has been given for the long delay.
Whatever the reason, Marc Van Wesemael, DG of Eurid, revealed: "The insertion of .eu into the root [of the DNS] has given the green light to the launch of the .eu domain." He believes the technical manoeuvring at the heart of the domain name system will take around two weeks to complete.
Eurid is currently finalising its registration policy for .eu addresses, which the EC will need to approve. According to the consortium's provisional calendar, the pre-reservation or 'sunrise' period — open to governmental bodies and holders of intellectual property and trademark rights only — should start in the third quarter of this year.
Domain names will be open to the public at large on a first-come, first-served basis, although the second stage isn't expected to go ahead until early 2006 — some way behind the planned date of the end of 2003.
When the project was first announced in spring 2002, the new extension to the domain name system was welcomed by European businesses which were turned off from top-level domain shuffles following the launch of .biz, supposedly devoted to enterprises across the continent, and the legal wrangling which went with it. It remains to be seen if, four years later, .eu will prove the domain they've been waiting for.