Internet set for domain name goldrush as branded names to be approved

LONDON - Brands will be able to register their own names as domain names in place of dotcom under a radical plan to shake up the world of top level domain names, which could also see the introduction of cities such as NYC as domains, if new rules are today approved today in Paris by industry body Icann.

The changes are also expected to pave the way for the introduction of suffixes such as .xxx, which will be highly prized by the online adult entertainment industry.

Cities like New York and London could also get their own domains with New York taking NYC and Lon for London.

The meeting in Paris will consider whether to throw open the current limited pool of top-level domain names, such as .gov and .fr, to any combination of letters and numbers which any organisation may register (within certain guidelines).

The second proposal on the table today is whether to allow domains using characters from non-English languages.

The changes could herald in a new generation of names such as Coca-Cola buying .coke, and of course the sex industry scrambling for .sex.

Icann said that registering a top-level domain would cost between $100,000 and $500,000. Applications would be accepted from around April 2009 and the first new sites would go live later in the year.

It will apply guidelines for the applications to make sure the names are not offensive and do not break intellectual property rights.

The resale values of domain names have grown in tandem with the internet's importance to business. broke sales barriers when it was sold for £6m in 2005 and in February this year set the UK record at £560,000.

Paul Twomey, president and chief executive of Icann, said: "This is the biggest change to the way people find each other on the internet since its inception."

Icann, which stands for the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, has been preparing for the changes for several years.