Internet industry officials have approved plans to expand the web's top-level domain system, potentially opening the door to domains such as .shop, .travel and .sex.
At a meeting in Japan last weekend, the non-profit organisation which manages the web's domain name system, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann), agreed to expand the domain system beyond the existing seven suffixes - .com, .org, .net, .edu, .int, .mil and .gov.
Although no decision will be made until 20 November on which, or how many, new names will be adopted, .shop, .store, .travel, .news, .tel, .web, .museum, .union, .bank and .sex have all been campaigned for. Webites boasting the new domain addresses are likely to appear early next year.
However, there is concern that introducing new domains could lead to legal challenges over the right to register names, something already seen in battles for ownership of .com domains. It would also lead to more cybersquatting, where individuals purchase desirable domains with the sole intention of selling them for a profit.
Icann has invited domain name registrars to apply to run the new generic Top Level Domains (gTLD) by 1 October. Registrars wishing to run one of the new domain names must put up a non-refundable deposit of $50,000 and convince Icann of their ability to administer it with a minimum of fuss.
Each will have to show it is capable of screening applications to weed out cybersquatters and establish a fair allocation system that will avoid damaging legal fights over intellectual property rights between national and international business.
They must also demonstrate that they can handle the initial high demand to register names equitably, without putting the stability and security of the domain name system at risk.
The European Union (EU) may be one of them. It is drawing up plans to establish a .eu domain for ecommerce that would quash cybersquatting through implementing strict name registration requirements such as being VAT-registered within the EU and agreeing to abide by local ecommerce laws.
No new gTLDs have been created since the late 1980s, although the subject has been often brought up only to drown in a lack of commercial, home user and international consensus.
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