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ICANN shakes up domain suffixes

Forget .com and .co.uk. From 2012, internet addresses will be able to end with almost any word, written in almost any language or alphabet.

During a vote from the The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers’ (ICANN) conference in Singapore, the global domain name chiefs unequivocally (13 to 3) voted yes to significantly boosting the number of domain name suffixes.

Right now, there are just 22 generic top level domains (gTLD), including .com, .biz, .museum and .jobs. The latest — the controversial .xxx domain which is used to denote pornographic sites — went into operation in April 2011. There are also around 250 country-specific domains, like .fr and .jp.

But starting next year, you could see websites ending in .Coke, .Microsoft or .IWeb. Brands, products, communities and causes are all welcomed.

Described as “one of the biggest changes ever to the Internet’s Domain Name System”, ICANN president Rod Beckstrom said: “We hope this allows the domain name system to better serve all of mankind.”

Companies, communities and countries have been fighting for new generic domains for years. After ICANN announced in 2008 that it would look into registering new gTLDs, firms quickly started to bagsy their suffixes.

In 2010, camera-maker Canon announced that it wanted .canon, and Hitachi started the application process for .hitachi in 2011. Global fund UNICEF started looking into .unicef and the Dot Horse Project wants, wait for it, .horse, “for all things equine”.

The application process will open on 12 January 2012, and firms will have until 12 April 2012 to get their gTLD registered. Before you start eyeing up .tom, BBC News says it will cost $185,000 (£114,000) to apply for a domain name suffix.

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