Internet agrees to new names shake-up

The internet’s key ruling body today agreed to allow potentially thousands of new domain names to be used instead of “.com” in the first sweeping changes in its 25-year history.

The internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers was also considering a separate proposal to permit addresses entirely in non-English languages for the first time.

Domain names help computers find websites and route email. Adding new suffixes can make it easier for websites to promote easy-to-remember names – given that mainly of the best ones have been claimed already under “.com”.

New names will start appearing for at least several months as the organisation still has to work out the details, including fees for obtaining new names.

The new guidelines would make it easier for companies and groups to propose new suffixes in English. ICANN had accepted bids in 2000 and 2004, but reviews took much time, and one – “.post” for postal services – remains pending more than four years later.

The streamlined guidelines call for all applicants to go through an initial review phase during which anyone may raise an objection on such grounds as racism, trademark conflicts and similarity to an existing suffix. If no objection is raised, approval would come quickly.

The proposal to permit addresses entirely in non-English characters for the first time would put specific countries on a “fast track” to receive the equivalent of their two-letter country code, such as Bulgaria’s “.bg,” in a native language.

Demand for such names has been increasing around the world as internet usage expands to people who cannot speak or easily type English characters.

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