MARINA DEL REY, Calif. — The Internet got its first new batch of international domain names on Thursday with the selection of .biz, .name and five other suffixes that will enable a lot more Web site variety.
The decision by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers capped a half-decade of discussions about how to relieve the crowded field of addresses ending in .com, .net or .org.
ICANN approved .info for general use, .biz for businesses, .name for individuals, .pro for professionals, .museum for museums, .coop for business co-operatives and .aero for the aviation industry.
"This is only an initial sampling," ICANN chairwoman Esther Dyson said. "The ones that were accepted … will provide additional utility, but they are probably not the only ones that would qualify."
Though additional rounds are expected, Dyson said ICANN has "not yet determined how we go forward from here."
The new suffixes, which could appear in use by mid-2001, are designed as alternatives to .com, a crowded suffix with some 20 million registrations. It would be similar to adding area codes to the national phone system to accommodate growth.
The additions are the first major new suffixes to the Internet since the domain name system was developed in the 1980s. ICANN has added some regional suffixes recently, including .ps for the Palestinian territories.
Web sites seeking a .com suffix are now forced to use word combinations or abbreviations that are difficult to remember.
Even .net and .org are getting crowded. The American Medical Association goes by ama-assn.org because ama.org was claimed by the American Marketing Association.
New suffixes could make more simple addresses available, which could then make Web sites easier to find. They could also begin a new virtual land rush, as speculators and trademark holders compete to claim the best names first.
Now, ICANN must negotiate contracts with companies or groups that made the winning proposals.
Members opened deliberations by stressing the need for high standards in the first round as part of a desire to limit the number of new names.
"We’re looking for compelling reasons to select these people rather than trying to take anyone that can remotely fit," said Dyson.
Board members generally agreed to avoid controlling content and rejected .kids for children and .health for prescreened health information.
"I don’t think this is something ICANN should be promising in the first place, and second we would be promising more than we could deliver," Dyson said of .kids.
Companies or groups proposing new suffixes paid a $50,000, nonrefundable fee for the chance to become record keepers for new names. As the registry operators, they would be able to charge a few dollars per name registered, an amount that could total in the tens or millions of dollars for the most popular suffixes.
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