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Net businesses vying for control of new domains

In the first effort to expand the pool of domain names, more than 40 Web businesses apply to control a new collection of Internet addresses ending with something other than ".com" or ".org."

In the first effort to expand the pool of domain names, more than 40 Web businesses have applied to control a new collection of Internet addresses that end with something other than the generic ".com" or ".org."

The applications, which carry a non-refundable $50,000 fee, were submitted to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, a private organization that oversees the Internet address system. Competition for new names is fierce, and many are closely watching the outcome.

The addition of new names is aimed at increasing competition among companies that sell and register domains for Web site owners and at giving customers more names and more sellers to choose from.

But the number of applications that will be approved, if any at all, is still unclear. Nevertheless, public comment on the ideas presented--such as ".biz," ".xxx" and ".kids"--will be accepted beginning Oct. 9 on ICANN's Web site.

"We have always believed in making domain names as diverse and plentiful as possible," said Paul Garrin, founder of New York-based Name Space, a domain name publisher that made a request for 118 new address suffixes.

The expansion project comes at a tricky time for ICANN, which is facing an international online election on Oct. 11 for five of its 19 board members. The new board will then be left with the task of choosing which applicants to accept.

Among the applicants for the new Internet names is Page Howe, a 37-year-old San Diego father and entrepreneur looking to manage a ".kids." But he is competing with at least two others who submitted the same idea.

ICANN is scheduled to reach a decision Nov. 20.

The Internet has a limited number of suffixes, including ".com," ".mil," ".gov," ".org" and ".net," in addition to special two-letter codes assigned to countries, such as ".us" for the United States.

Most of the country codes were established in the 1990s, but no new domain suffixes have been approved since the 1980s.

With the expansion of the Internet, the availability of catchy domain names are becoming scarce. As a way to get around the logjam, some companies have used the country codes for their addresses.

For instance, entertainment giant Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), Los Angeles-based television station NBC4 and gaming operation Sega of America purchased ".TV" domains from dotTV, an Idealab-created start-up.

dotTV obtained the ".TV" name from the government of Tuvalu, a small Pacific island nation that was assigned the ".TV" top-level domain by ICANN. The company agreed to pay $50 million for the rights to the country domain for 10 years.