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ICANN approves expansion of top-level domains

Vote means domains will be able to end in almost any word, allowing companies to turn their brands into Internet extensions.

The Internet's primary governing body today approved the expansion of new top-level domains--one of the most dramatic changes in the Internet's history.

During a special meeting in Singapore, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) voted to dramatically increase the number of domain endings from the current 22, which includes the well-established .com, .net, and .org. The move will allow domains to end in almost any word, allowing companies to turn their brands into Internet extensions.

"ICANN has opened the Internet's naming system to unleash the global human imagination," Rod Beckstrom, president and chief executive officer of ICANN, said in a statement. "Today's decision respects the rights of groups to create new Top Level Domains in any language or script. We hope this allows the domain name system to better serve all of mankind."

Peter Dengate Thrush, chairman of ICANN's board of directors, said the "decision will usher in a new Internet age. We have provided a platform for the next generation of creativity and inspiration."

ICANN said it would soon begin a global campaign to educate people about the changes and opportunities they afford. Applications for new generic top-level domains will be accepted from January 12, 2012, to April 12, 2012, and the estimated evaluation fee is $185,000. (Click here to see ICANN's fact sheet on the new GTLDs (PDF).)

Hundreds of applications for these suffixes are expected, including .car, .love, .movie, .web, and .gay.

The battle over new top-level domains has been long and often contentious. Earlier this year, a rift developed between national governments and the nonprofit organization over how much influence government officials, and to a lesser extent trademark owners, will enjoy over the process of creating new domain suffixes.

Also, a U.S. proposal that would have given it and other governments the power to veto future top-level domain names failed to win approval. A group of nations rejected the proposal, concluding instead that governments can offer nonbinding "advice" about controversial suffixes but would not receive actual veto power. Proposed domain suffixes like .gay are likely to prove contentious among more conservative nations