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Radical web address shakeup window closes


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Organisations that want their own domain name suffix to replace .com or .co.uk have until midnight tonight to make their applications to the internet’s governing body.

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Major brands are expected to create their own areas of the web, with theoretical examples such as .ford and .pepsi often cited.

Applications will be vetted by Icann, a United States quango that controls the domain name system, a global system of computers that ensure the addresses that users type into their browsers connect them to the right websites. The process, which opened in January, is the most radical shake-up of the system since it was created.

So far firms including Canon and Google have confirmed they are bidding to create their own domain name suffixes. Most applications have been shrouded in secrecy, however, as bidders aim to avoid rivals.

An application costs around £120,000 and maintaining a domain name suffix at least £25,000 annually, so only large organisations are expected to apply.

Generic extensions such as “.web” are also up for grabs and expected to attract several applications, which could trigger an auction.

The changes have been several years in the making, and have proved controversial, with some claiming it will make the web more complicated and lead to more “cyber squatting”, whereby web addresses related to brands are speculatively acquired to parasitise traffic, or in the hope the brand owner will pay to regain control.

On the other hand, the new system could improve the security of online banking, for example. If a bank only provides its services via its own suffix then users are less likely to be duped by fake websites, it’s argued.

"We certainly expect to see applications from companies in industries plagued by counterfeiting and cybersquatting, as new [suffixes] offer important enhancements to security,” said Roland LaPlante of Afilias, a firm aiming to run suffixes on behalf of organisations.

Nominet, the not-for-profit organisation that runs the database of more than 10 million “.uk” web addresses, has applied to create new “.wales” and “.cymru” suffixes.

It is expected that it will take at least 18 months for the first of the new web address suffixes to work.


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