Icann increases web domain suffixes
A global internet body has voted to allow the creation of new website domain suffixes, the biggest change for the online world in years.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann) plans to dramatically increase the number of domain endings from the current 22.
Internet address names will end with almost any word and be in any language.
Icann will begin taking applications next year, with corporations and cities expected to be among the first.
"Icann has opened the internet's addressing system to the limitless possibilities of the human imagination," said Rod Beckstrom, president and chief executive officer for Icann.
"No one can predict where this historic decision will take us."
There will be several hundred new generic top-level domain names (gTLDs), which could include such addresses as .google, .coke, or even .BBC.
There are currently 22 gTLDs, as well as about 250 country-level domain names such as .uk or .de.
It will cost $185,000 (£114,000) to apply for the suffixes, and companies would need to show they have a legitimate claim to the name they are buying.
Analysts say it is a price that global giants might be willing to pay - in order to maximise their internet presence.
The money will be used to cover costs incurred by Icann in developing the new gTLDs and employing experts to scrutinise the many thousands of expected applications.
A portion will be set-aside to deal with potential legal actions, raised by parties who fail to get the domains they want.
The vote completes a six-year negotiation process and is the biggest change to the system since .com was first introduced 26 years ago.
Icann said it was beginning a global communications programme to raise awareness of the new domain names.
Applications will start on 12 January.
Companies and organisations seeking one of the new gTLDs will have to meet high technical standards, according to Bruce Tonkin, chief strategy officer at Melbourne IT, a domain registry service.
"You need IT robustness and you need intellectual property protections beyond what is available in the dot com space.
"You have to have 24/7 abuse team. You have to have mechanisms where a trademark holder has first right to get their name," he said.
The higher standards, said Mr Tonkin, meant the application process would be extremely rigorous.
"Using a real estate analogy, it would be roughly the equivalent of getting approval to build a sky scraper.
"There's roughly 50 questions, roughly 2-3 pages per question. Icann will then use experts in each field to evaluate them.
"The concern that some people have is that the standards of these buildings will be so high, that they will never get built. It will be too expensive," he said.