The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers voted Thursday to relax rules for naming Web sites.
At its meeting in Paris, ICANN, a not-for-profit organization that oversees the naming scheme for Web sites, voted to accept a proposal that will allow companies to purchase new top-level domain names ending in whatever they like.
So, for example, instead of being restricted to sites ending in .com or .org., eBay could have a site that ends in .ebay, or New York City could end its Web site with .nyc.
The new naming process will begin in 2009. The first suffixes will likely be given to businesses and other major organizations. Countries are expected to keep their specific suffixes, but as in the example above cities could also get individualized URLs, such as .london or .chicago.
In an effort to deter cybersquatters, the organization is likely to charge a hefty price for the new names. Some experts estimate the new domain names could cost anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000 or more. ICANN plans to give companies with trademarked names priority for their names.
The group also voted to open public comment on a proposal that would allow countries to use non-English script. For example, companies could use Chinese or Arabic script to identify their web sites.
Paul Twomey, the chief executive of ICANN, told the BBC earlier this week that allowing the new naming conventions would create new "real estate" on the Internet. But some experts worry that it could unleash a gold rush mentality. While trademarked names will only be available to those trademark holders, there are loads of common words that people could want to register, such as .sex.
The suffix .xxx was rejected by ICANN last year, but it could also prove to be a popular suffix under the more relaxed policy. Still, Twomey told Agence France Press that the organization will still try to block or reject any domain name it deems inappropriate for security or moral reasons.