The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has approved plans that will see the number of internet domain names increased significantly.
There are currently 22 top-level domains (gTLDs) including the most familiar; .com, .org and .net.
The number of possible domains will be increased following a consultation period between January and April 2012. This will afford businesses and individuals the opportunity to apply for new names.
Site owners will be able to set up web site addresses ending in almost any word in any language.
This will provide opportunities for businesses to market their brand, products, community or cause in new and innovative ways.
Rod Beckstrom, president and chief executive of ICANN, said: "ICANN has opened the internet's naming system to unleash the imagination. Today's decision respects the rights of groups to create new Top Level Domains in any language or script."
However, Andreas Edler, managing director at web hosting company Hostway UK, says the decision might be bad news for current web site owners. He warns that a dramatic increase in domain names means businesses will have to do more to protect their brand.
"ICANN's decision will change the internet landscape, but if companies take action to protect their brand equity they might fall foul of cyber squatters," he said.
"Cyber squatting can still cost brands thousands in lost sales, reputation and legal battles, so businesses will need to ensure they are protected."
The decision to extend the number of gTLDs follows years of discussion with businesses and governments and also sees ICANN launch the Applicant Guidebook. The guide will explain how to apply for a new gTLD. It went through seven full revisions to incorporate more than 1,000 comments from the public.
ICANN will soon begin a global campaign to publicise the change in internet names and applications for new gTLDs will be accepted between 12 January and 12 April 2012.
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