June 26, 2008 -- Dot-com is so 1990s. The group that oversees the naming of Internet domains approved a measure today that will broadly expand what words can follow the period in a Web address -- everything from .ABC to .sex -- potentially sparking a domain-naming boom.
The Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, an international nonprofit corporation overseen by the U.S. Department of Commerce, approved two measures at a meeting in Paris today that will allow virtually any word in any language to be used in a domain name.
"There are two items on the agenda," an ICANN consultant unauthorized to speak with the press told ABC News from the sidelines of the conference. "The first would allow for new domain names. So a company could apply for a dot company address, .ebay or .ABC."
The policy would expand the short list of approved domains like .com, .org, .edu and country names to allow for almost anything, including steamy-sounding domains like .sex. ICANN recently turned down a proposal to create a .xxx domain for pornography sites, but if the new policy is approved, virtually any name, including .xxx, would be permitted.
New names will likely not appear online until at least 2009. The organization still must work out many of the details, including fees for obtaining new names, expected to exceed $100,000 apiece, to help ICANN cover millions of dollars in costs
"There is real buzz here and huge interest in this," the consultant said. "ICANN spent more than $10 million on developing these programs. Sales will allow it to recoup those costs. How much money ICANN spends to finish the process will determine the cost."
Some board members feared that with so many new names, the organization would be turned in to a censor.
"If this is broadly implemented, this recommendation would allow for any government to effectively veto a string that makes it uncomfortable," Susan Crawford, a Yale law professor on the board told The Associated Press. She voted in favor of the rule changes but later called for more clarity.
Trademarked names would be bought and owned by those companies, but more generic domains like .sex or .car would be auctioned, opening the likelihood of a bidding war.
"There is always a land rush when new extensions are opened to the general public," said Rob Sequin, owner of searchdomainsforsale.com. "There is always a flurry of speculation when a new domain extension is released."
"The success of something like .sex will depend not only on how much speculation there is but also on how well it is developed," he said.
The second item on the agenda would allow for the use of non-Roman characters in an Internet address. Currently, only the letters of the English-language alphabet can be used in a URL, but the new policy would allow speakers of languages like Arabic, Chinese and Thai to create Web addresses in their own languages.