Net name rules relaxed

NEW YORK — The Internet's key oversight company relaxed rules Thursday to permit the introduction of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of new Internet domain names to join ”.com,“ making the first sweeping changes in the network's 25-year-old addressing system.

The Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers unanimously approved the new guidelines on the final day of weeklong meetings in Paris. The company also voted unanimously to open public comment on a separate proposal to permit addresses entirely in non-English languages for the first time.

New names probably won't start appearing until at least next year, and the company won't be deciding on specific ones quite yet. The organization still must work out many of the details, including fees for obtaining new names, expected to exceed $100,000 apiece to help the company cover up to $20 million in costs.

The new guidelines would make it easier for companies and groups to propose new suffixes in English.

The streamlined guidelines call for applicants to go through an initial review phase, during which anyone might raise an objection on such grounds as racism, trademark conflicts and similarity to an existing suffix.

Some company board members expressed concerns that the guidelines could turn the organization into a censorship regime..

”The other proposal before the company would permit addresses entirely in non-English characters for the first time. The ICANN board said it would seek public comment on the guidelines before its next major meeting in November.