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Internet names expansion in months

Hundreds of internet address suffixes to rival ".com" should be available for people and businesses to use by the end of the year, the head of an internet oversight agency says.

The initial ones, expected in mid-2013, will probably be in Chinese and other languages besides English, said Fadi Chehade, CEO of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

That will be followed within weeks by English suffixes that do not have competing bidders.

Although the specific names will not be announced until late in April, they will come from a pool of single-bidder proposals - among them, ".aetna," ".cadillac" and other brand names sought by companies, regional monikers such as ".vegas" and ".quebec" and generic suffixes such as ".like" and ".vacation."

Many proposed suffixes, such as ".app," ".music" and ".tech," are likely to take longer, however, because multiple groups have submitted bids to run them and must work out disputes.

ICANN is overseeing the largest expansion of the internet address system since its creation in the 1980s.

Last year, nearly 2,000 businesses and groups submitted bids for about 1,400 different names.

Proponents of the new suffixes are hoping the expansion will lead to online neighbourhoods of businesses and groups around specific geographic areas or industries. And with easy-to-remember ".com" names long taken, they hope to offer internet newcomers more choices.

In preparation for that expansion, Mr Chehade said that businesses and other trademark holders will be able to declare names they want protected, starting on March 26, for an annual fee of up to 150 dollars (100) per name. IBM and Deloitte will run that system, known as the Trademark Clearinghouse.

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