The Internet's governing body has announced seven new suffixes in an attempt to reduce the competition for Internet domain names.
The decision by Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann) is important to businesses trying to establish a strong Web presence and to avoid cyber squatting.
The suffixes, available from June 2001, are: .biz for business; .name to be used by individuals; .museum; .pro for professionals, .aero for aviation, .coop for co-operatives and .info.
Icann board members voted for the names from an original choice of almost 200 to extend the .com field, which currently has 20 million addresses.
The extra domain names should ease the bottleneck caused by the shortage of suffixes and the difficulty of registering short and simple Web addresses.
The increase in endings is expected to encourage e-commerce opportunities.
Some Internet service providers (ISPs) have been offering businesses keen to exploit these opportunities the right to reserve domain names before they are available. However, Catrin Turner, e-commerce lawyer with Henry Hepworth Organisation, warned against this strategy. "There are no guarantees," she said.
Turner said many organisations have only registered one domain name from the current suffixes - for example .co.uk but not .com - which leaves them open to cyber squatting and fraud. "Companies have to make sure their brands are protected with current domains," she said. "It's then a matter of wait and see what happens with the new domains."
David Peacock, technical services director at Internet services firm NetInfo, said more suffixes "are going to create more confusion with a lot of our corporate customers. Certain ISPs prey on this fear and doubt and will be offering domain names for silly money, which many companies will accept." He added that education in the issue was vital.
UK domain name registrar NetNames is releasing a brand management platform designed to help large corporations and law firms protect their brand on the Internet.
The system, which can sit on a client's Web site, intranet or accessed at www.netnames.co.uk, will allow users to search in real time all 250 top-level domains, including generic and country code suffixes.