- The Washington Times - Friday, April 7, 2006

BRUSSELS (AP) — Some 550,000 Europeans rushed to register their new “.eu” domain names in the first hours of being able to sign up for the new Internet addresses, officials said.

Until yesterday, registration was limited to specific groups. Now, anyone who resides in the European Union can buy a name on a first-come, first-served basis.

EU Commissioner Viviane Reding said the commission hopes the new “.eu” name will one day rival the “.com” name.

“Europe and its citizens can now project their own Web identity, protected by EU rules,” she said.

The initial registrations yesterday mostly came from Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Belgium, Ms. Reding said. Previously, special groups registered 320,000 names since it became available in December.

All EU institutions, including the commission, European Parliament and the EU’s general Web site will switch to the “.eu” name on May 9, Europe Day, Ms. Reding said.

Before the creation of “.eu,” Europeans had to choose between a national domain such as “.fr” for France or a global one like “.com,” often seen as American. Officials from the EU small business lobby UEAPME said the “.eu” name could be useful for companies that serve several or all European countries.

EU officials urged consumers to be cautious over registration charges. They said they found names available for as little as $14.77.

Domain names on the Internet are typically assigned by country or territory.

The Internet’s key oversight agency, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), made an exception because the EU is on a special “reserved” list kept by the International Organization for Standardization, a worldwide standardization body.

ICANN also is considering a “.asia” name for that continent.

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