Wed, Jun 25, 2008 - Page 11 News List

Web domain names set for dramatic expansion

INTERNET TURFAmong proposals that would liberalize the system, Chinese and Arabic and other non-Latin alphabets could be accepted as languages for addresses

AFP , PARIS

The Internet on Monday looked set for one of the biggest shakeups in its brief history if the Web’s regulator votes this week as expected to allow new domain names such as “.love” or “.paris”.

The vote by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which began its annual general meeting on Monday in Paris, would open up millions of new variations for Web addresses.

“Apart from the ‘.com’, ‘.net’ or ‘.org’, the 1.3 billion Web users will be able from early 2009 to acquire generic addresses by lodging common words such as ‘.love’, ‘.hate’ or ‘.city’ or proper names,” ICANN president Paul Twomey told French newspaper Les Echos.

With the stock of available Web addresses under the current IPv4 protocol set to run out by 2011, ICANN has been under pressure to find a solution for burgeoning demand.

Under the proposed new regime, domain names will also be able to be lodged in languages such as Arabic or Chinese.

“We have tested 15 languages with non-Latin alphabets so that they can work with Web browsers from Mozilla, Microsoft and Apple,” Twomey said.

Web sites are now largely limited to domains that end in “.com” or “.country”, but the ICANN proposal would enable firms to buy new generic domains ending in whatever they want.

The popular online trading site eBay is one of the many companies that wants to have its own domain name.

Broad product groups such as “.bank” or “.car” are also likely contenders.

Cities could benefit too from this liberalization, with the German capital hoping for “.berlin” or New York for “.nyc”.

Some cities or regions have been bending the rules already to get the domain they want. The city of Los Angeles, for example, has signed a deal with the government of Laos to use its .la domain.

In theory, an infinite number of new domain names could be born, which would prove a boon for ICANN because it would receive payment for each one.

But in reality advanced technical skills and a fat wallet would be needed to set up a new name.

Tens of thousands of dollars would be required, noted Loic Damilaville, head of the AFNIC association of French domain names.

ICANN is also at this week’s meeting, which has gathered more than 1,500 delegates from dozens of countries, backing a new address system, IPv6, which would add billions of new Internet addresses.

A non-profit organization based in southern California, ICANN oversees the assignment of domain names and Internet protocol addresses that help computers communicate.

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