The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has signed its contract with RegistryPro, which expects to have the top-level .pro domain up and running by late this year or early next year.
The Department of Commerce still must sign off on the deal; it's expected to do so shortly.
Those who register .pro names will pay nearly ten times what others pay for their Web addresses. The domain names, which will be given out on a first-come, first-served basis after trademark holders exert their rights, are expected to cost between $250 and $300 per year.
The fee is part of the price people will pay for holding one of the elite .pro names. The top-level domain has arguably the strictest registration requirements of any Web address suffix so far.
"We look forward to launching a truly revolutionary domain system designed to facilitate secure online communications and transactions for professionals," RegistryPro CEO Sloan Gaon said in a statement.
Right now, those who register .pro addresses must submit credentials to prove they're doctors, lawyers or accountants. In exchange, they'll get a set of enhanced security measures, including encrypted e-mail and a certificate that will be used to verify their identity.
"The bundling of a domain name with a digital security product is a tremendous development in Internet security," Stephen Wu, co-chair of the Information Security Committee of the American Bar Association, said in a statement. "The .pro system will provide a means for professionals to conduct electronic transactions and communications that satisfy electronic signature laws and provide assurances of identity and confidentiality."
Proponents of the plan say the domain also will help consumers, who can verify that the person they're dealing with is a professional by looking at their .pro address.
Eventually, .pro is expected to expand to architects and other professionals.