- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 13, 2012

NEW YORK (AP) - Companies and organizations from North America and Europe dominated the bids for new Internet addresses as a key oversight agency prepares for the largest expansion yet in the online addressing system.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers received 1,930 proposals for 1,409 different Internet suffixes by the May 30 deadline. Suffixes are the “.com” part of an Internet address. Nearly half of the proposals _ 911 _ were from North America and another 675 came from Europe.

ICANN plans to release details about the proposals at a news conference in London on Wednesday. It disclosed general trends ahead of the announcement. The full list of proposed suffixes was not yet available, though bidders have disclosed some of them, including “.bank,” “.baby” and “.YouTube.”

If approved, the new suffixes would rival “.com” and about 300 others now in use. Companies would be able to create separate websites and separate addresses for each of their products and brands, for instance, even as they keep their existing “.com” name. Businesses that joined the Internet late, and found desirable “.com” names taken, would have alternatives.

From a technical standpoint, the names let Internet-connected computers know where to send email and locate websites. But they’ve come to mean much more. Amazon.com Inc., for instance, has built its brand around the domain name.

The expansion will allow suffixes that represent hobbies, ethnic groups, corporate brand names and more.

Where the proposals came from in many ways mirrored where the Internet is used most. Only 17 proposals came from Africa and 24 came from Latin America and the Caribbean _ areas where Internet use is relatively low.

One surprise came from the Asia-Pacific region, which had 303 proposals, or 16 percent of the total. It was believed that Asia might get more because the expansion will lift current restrictions on non-English characters and permit suffixes in Chinese, Japanese and Korean. China has the world’s largest Internet population, and there was talk of creating the Chinese equivalent of “.com” and other popular suffixes.

It’s possible that some of the bids for Asian suffixes came from North American or European companies. There were 116 proposals, or 6 percent, for suffixes using characters beyond the 26 English letters.

Many of the 1,930 proposals were duplicates. Suffixes in contention are likely to include “.bank,” “.secure” and “.web.” ICANN is encouraging competing bidders to work out an agreement. The organization will hold an auction if the parties fail to reach a compromise. Of the 1,930 proposals, 751 were for 230 different suffixes, while the remaining 1,179 were unique. That means there were 1,409 distinct suffixes proposed.

After the list is out Wednesday, 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.

It’ll take at least a year or two for ICANN to approve the first of these new suffixes. 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.

Companies and groups had to pay $185,000 per proposal. Suffixes could potentially generate millions of dollars a year for winning bidders as they sell names ending in some of the approved names. Critics of the expansion include a coalition of business groups worried about protecting their brands in newly created names.

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