The internet will get a lot bigger and exclusive in 2013. That's when the net's familiar domains will be joined by an array of novel names.
The change will mean lots of new words will appear as suffix, where people usually expect to see .com, or .net.
Run by Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which oversees the net's addressing system, the scheme gives organisations that can afford the $185,000 registration fee the chance to run their own domain.
No longer will they have to search to see if a .com is available. Instead, big companies such as Microsoft, Coca Cola, Pepsi Co or Nike could run a domain based on their company name.
Currently, companies can register for sites on just 22 generic top-level domains (gTLDs) such as .com, .org, .biz, .tv, .fm, and so on. Soon, one may be able to visit their favorite brands on their own gTLDs such as .cocacola, or .NIKE. Google and Canon have announced plans to go after .google and .canon, respectively. There may also be new domain names in non-Western script such as Chinese or Korean characters.
Once the proposed gTLD list goes public, it can be viewed on a dedicated ICANN page. Potential new gTLD owners have to prove they have the technical and fiscal capability to run an Internet registry (an organization that maintains a gTLD such as .com or .org). And new domains won’t come cheap either with new gTLDs starting at $185,000.
Ahead of the press conference, ICANN also revealed that 166 of the claims were for what it termed "internationalised domain names" - generic top-level-domains (gTLDs) that are not in the Latin alphabet.
"That means that if you're a person living in China or in somewhere in India then you might have the opportunity to use the internet purely in your native script," ICANN's president and chief executive, Rod Beckstrom.
Even there are known to be some double entries in the list. For instance, there are at least two applications for .africa and for .eco. However, if only 10% of the total go live next year the number of domains on the net will more than double.
"It's the biggest shake up of the domain name space ever," said Lesley Cowley, chief executive of Nominet which oversees the UK's net addresses. Nominet has applied to run the .wales/.cymru domain.
It is not the first time though, that new domains have been added to the net. That has been done twice before in 2000 and 2004, said Ms Cowley.
"What's different this time round is that, instead of having one new extension every few years we will have hundreds coming out in one year," said domain investor and blogger Michael Berkens.
International breakdown of applications:
North America: 911 applications
Europe: 675 applications
Asia-Pacific: 303 applications
Latin American and the Caribbean: 24 applications
Africa: 17 applications
(116 in non-Latin alphabets)