Launch of domain name expansion

Adam Peck/PA

Website addresses are set to transform with the launch of a new domain name system this week.

In one of the biggest changes since the internet began 30 years ago, anyone can register a web address suffix such as .AOL or .Money for example, for $185,000 (£119,000).

There are currently around 22 types of top-level domains such as .com or .gov; and country codes such as .uk, .fr, .ca and .nz. From Thursday, new suffixes can be purchased following the relaxation of strict rules for internet terminology by industry body Icann.

The biggest recent change came last year when .xxx was created to create a designated internet space for adult websites. The new top-level domain (TLD), launched with the slogan '"let's be adult about it" now boasts 250,000 websites in the nine months since in went live last April.

'Dot brand' names
It is reported that the Mayor of London Boris Johnson has announced City hall's intention to register .london and a number of other cities, including New York, Paris, Sydney, Rome and Berlin, are also planning to launch their own top level domains (TLD).

In addition to specific locations; the expansion of domain names is expected to appeal to many brands and organisations. It is reported that Pepsi for example, is keen to buy .pepsi so it can launch a drink.pepsi website.

New opportunities
In a press statement at the weekend, Icann encouraged worldwide companies to prepare for this new development.

Rod Beckstrom, its chief executive and president, said: "Time is short. If you have not done so, now is the time to get expert advice and get your marketing people engaged to take advantage of new opportunities."

However, Beckstrom also acknowledged one of the major concerns critics have of the new regime, adding that those companies who do not plan to apply need to be vigilant. "If you do not choose to apply, you should still pay attention to those who do, and use the protections built into the program to safeguard your brand or community."

Increase fraud risk
The Guardian reports that more than 40 of the world's biggest companies, including Coca-Cola and Johnson & Johnson, have also complained that the expansion will increase costs, confuse consumers and increase the risk of internet fraud.

Yet Icann claim a detailed 50-question application form will deter fraudsters and ensure that companies copyright holders win the right to domains using their brands. Applicants have until 12 April to sign up, before an eight-month evaluation process. The first top-level domain sites are expected to go live in 2013.
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