The global organisation that oversees the internet address system has voted to expand the number of website domain suffixes called generic top-level domains (gTLDs) from the current 22.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann) has agreed internet address names will be able to end with almost any word in any language.
Icann announced at a meeting in Singapore that it will begin taking applications for the new domain names in 2012.
The new domains will most likely be categorised by subjects including industry, geography and ethnicity. Domains will include Arabic, Chinese and other scripts, Icann said.
Icann leaders said the decision from the organisation's board of directors will usher in one of the biggest changes ever to the internet's domain name system.
"Icann has opened the internet's naming system to unleash the global human imagination. Today's decision respects the rights of groups to create new top-level domains in any language or script. We hope this allows the domain name system to better serve all of mankind," said Rod Beckstrom, president and chief executive officer of Icann.
The decision to proceed with the programme follows many years of discussion, debate and deliberation with the internet community, business groups and governments. Strong efforts were made to address the concerns of all interested parties, and to ensure that the security, stability and resiliency of the internet are not compromised, Icann said.
Andreas Edler, managing director at web hosting company Hostway UK, says Icann's decision will certainly change the internet landscape.
But, as ever when a new domain comes out, companies need to carefully think about protecting their brand equity to ensure they do not fall foul of cybersquatters, Andreas Edler says.
Cybersquatting can still cost brands thousands in lost sales, reputation and legal battles, says Edler. Many businesses will need to ensure they get the right advice when it comes to this new raft of domain names, not only to protect themselves but also to ensure their web presence is optimised in the future.
Icann delayed the decision to create new top level domain names in 2010, after objections from the US.
The US accused Icann of failing to examine fully the economic implications of creating new names to compete with .com and .net domains.