How the Internet will get new domain name suffixes

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By The Associated Press, Associated Press

On Wednesday, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers will release a list of some 2,000 proposals for new Internet address suffixes. They can represent hobbies, ethnic groups, corporate brand names and more.

Expanding the number of suffixes, the ".com" part of an Internet address, has been one of ICANN's missions since its creation in 1998 to oversee domain names. ICANN had two test rounds, in 2000 and 2004, when it added ".info," ''.Asia," ''.travel," among others. It's now ready to expand the domain name system more broadly.

For the new round, ICANN began accepting proposals in January. Bidders had to answer 50 questions covering such things as what a proposed suffix will be used for and what kind of financial backing the company or organization has. They had until May 30 to submit the proposal. Each proposal cost $185,000 to submit.

What ICANN is announcing Wednesday is a list of all the proposals. There will be months and possibly years of reviews before the suffixes are accepted and available for use.

Here's what happens now:

THE CHALLENGES: The public will have 60 days to comment on the proposals. Someone can claim a trademark violation or argue that a proposed suffix is offensive.

THE LOGISTICS: Because of the high number of proposals, ICANN will review them in groups of about 500. There's a lottery-like system to determine which ones get to be considered first. It could take a few years to get to the final group.

THE REVIEW: ICANN will review each proposal to make sure that its financial plan is sound and that contingencies exist in case a company goes out of business. Bidders also must pass criminal background checks.

If multiple bidders seek the same suffix, ICANN will encourage the parties to work out an agreement. The organization will hold an auction if they cannot come up with a compromise.

The review is expected to take at least nine months, meaning approval of the first batch won't happen until March 2013 or later. If there are challenges or other problems, ICANN believes the review could take up to 20 months.

Approvals will be made on a rolling basis, so those that pass reviews early won't have to wait for the ones taking more time.

THE LAUNCH: Once a suffix gets approved, the winning bidder will have to set up procedures for registering names under that suffix and computers to keep track of them. The bidder might have all that already completed in anticipation of an approval.

The bidder pays an annual fee that starts at $25,000. The suffix gets activated and becomes available for use. All that could take days or months.

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