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Internet Addresses Get Big Changes

The international group that regulates the Internet has approved changes that will bring thousands of new kinds of addresses to the World Wide Web.

Until now, so-called "top-level domain names" on the Internet were limited to a few general categories, such as "," or two-letter country codes, such as "" - in all fewer than 300 categories.

Meeting in Paris Thursday, however, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers decided the address listings can be much more varied and descriptive - unlimited, in fact, if users can justify the addresses they want to use and pay the necessary fees.

Beginning early next year, Internet users will be able to use domain names - the last part of a Web address, usually two or three letters long, and preceded by a dot or period - based on common words, brands, company names, cities, proper names and other categories.

There will be no limit on length for the new domain names. And, most significantly for anyone who does not speak or write English, the new addresses can be expressed in any world alphabet.

Internet experts say ICANN's decision is the biggest change in the Internet system's 25-year history, and it will amount to a radical shakeup in the way every user will access the Web.

Subject to approval by the regulators at ICANN, possibilities will include addresses ending in ".Paris," ".truth," ".oil," ".yourname," or variations in Chinese, Arabic or any other non-Roman alphabet.

Future fees for new addresses have not yet been decided, but are likely to run into thousands or tens of thousands of dollars. Internet regulators say they will take steps to prevent "abusive registration of new domain names."

The word- or alphabet-based Web addresses that are familiar to almost all of the Internet's 1.3 billion users at present actually are based on a numerical system that is running out of room - the "IPv4 protocol" - but ICANN's plans will mesh with previously announced plans to expand the numbering system.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Bloomberg.