'.wow': ICANN to allow almost any domain suffix

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers has accepted a proposal allowing companies, cities and others to use almost any suffix they want for a web address.
Written by Marguerite Reardon, Contributor on
At its meeting in Paris, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a not-for-profit organization that oversees the naming scheme for web sites, voted to accept a proposal that will allow companies to purchase new top-level domain names ending in almost whatever suffix they choose.

So, for example, instead of being restricted to sites ending in .com or .org., eBay could have a site that ends in .ebay, or New York City could end its website address with .nyc.

The new naming process will begin in 2009. The first suffixes will probably be given to businesses and other major organizations. Countries are expected to keep their specific suffixes, but, as in the example above, cities could also get individualized URLs, such as .london or .chicago.

In an effort to deter cybersquatters, the organization is likely to charge a hefty price for the new names. Some experts have estimated that the new domain names could cost anywhere from $50,000 (£25,200) to $100,000 or more. ICANN plans to give companies with trademarked names priority for those names.

The group also voted to allow public comment on a proposal that would enable countries to use non-English script. For example, companies could use Chinese or Arabic script to identify their web sites.

Paul Twomey, chief executive of ICANN, told the BBC earlier this week that allowing the new naming conventions would create new "real estate" on the internet.

However, some experts have expressed concerns that the decision could result in a gold-rush mentality. While trademarked names will only be available to holders of those trademarks, there are many common words that people may want to register as web site suffixes, such as '.sex'.

The suffix .xxx was rejected by ICANN last year, but it could also prove to be a popular suffix under the more relaxed policy. However, Twomey told Agence France-Press that the organization will still try to block or reject any domain name that it deems inappropriate for security or moral reasons.

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