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Friday, June 15, 2012

Companies Vie for Popular Domain Suffixes

Story first appeared in USA Today.

The Internet is a step closer to unleashing way more words — sought by the likes of Apple, Google, Amazon and Microsoft — to serve as endings to website addresses.

On Wednesday, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) unveiled a list of names and applicants eager to stake a claim on a piece of the Internet, known as a domain.

The new domains would vastly expand the pool of suffixes beyond ".com" and ".net" and perhaps add such new Web address endings as ".baby," ".apple," ".google" or ".sex." Companies anted up $185,000 per domain to apply for naming rights.

If approved, it would be the first time companies can grab a moniker or product-related name in the Web address slot. ICANN, which oversees the process, plans to approve applications for these new domains within a year or so.

Apple has applied only for ".apple," while Google, Amazon and Microsoft have gone after multiple product names. Among many names, Amazon is going after ".book," ".circle," ".news," ".author" and the name of its popular Kindle Fire tablet with ".fire." Microsoft is seeking to acquire its search engine Web address suffix with ".bing" and its e-mail service ".hotmail," along with other products.

Of course, competition means there are some companies that will get into fisticuffs over words.

Some domain names have more than one applicant. For example, software giant Microsoft is going after ".docs" in a move that pits it against Google, which wants to protect Google Docs, its free online documents, spreadsheets and presentation software that challenges Microsoft's Office.

Google has been particularly aggressive in seeking new domains, applying for ".android," ".app," ".blog," ".buy," ".corp" and more than 100 more.

There's a wider digital land grab at stake. There are multiple applicants for popular words ".app," ".blog," ".buy" and ".corp."

ICANN, which has received 1,930 applicants, will have to sort out whose claims are strongest. A 60-day period for anyone to submit comments and objections began Wednesday. Those who object to applications have seven months to file complaints.

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