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Banks and other companies and groups could take advantage, soon, of a new way to attract attention online. The organization that governs the names of websites is rolling out some big changes. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers - or ICANN - announced in Singapore yesterday, that it will allow virtually any word in any language to be used at the end of Internet addresses.

As NPR's Nina Gregory reports, this my mean a move from the dot-com era to the dot-everything era.

NINA GREGORY: There are currently 23 possible endings for a Web address - the ubiquitous dot-com, dot-gov, dot-edu and, of course, dot-org and ICANN's new ruling may change all of that.

Mr. PETER DENGATE-THRUSH (Chairman, board of directors, ICANN): The most significant change to the Internet, really, since it was created.

GREGORY: That's Peter Dengate Thrush. He is the chairman of ICANN's board of directors.

Mr. DENGATE-THRUSH: The theory is that, or the hope is, that this is going to lead to innovation in ways we can't imagine.

GREGORY: The way it works is that organizations will pay $185,000 to apply for what is called a top-level domain name, as in dot-com or dot-org are used now. So, in about a year and a half, you might see dot-Starbucks or dot-Nike.

Dengate-Thrush explains the fee.

Mr. DENGATE-THRUSH: It's not the price of a domain name. This is to create a registry that will compete with dot-com, for example. Now to build a registry that can sell and manage millions and even hundreds of millions of domain names, you're talking a reasonably serious business investment.

GREGORY: The former and founding chair of the ICANN board is Esther Dyson. She does not see the value in this new naming system.

Ms. ESTHER DYSON: I'm not a big fan of this. I think it's kind of a useless market, and if I had $185,000, I'd spend it on something else.

GREGORY: Dyson says a new naming system is unnecessary and especially at this price.

Ms. DYSON: There's really no need for it and it costs a lot. And nobody's creating new value here, they're just selling words. The trademark system is good enough.

GREGORY: Jeff Ernst is a principal analyst at Forrester Research and an expert in marketing strategy. He says the biggest brands are already looking to invest in new dot-names.

Mr. JEFF ERNST (Principal Analyst, Forrester Research): Just about any big-brand company wants to have as much control over their Web presence as they can, and this gives them a way to do it without yielding to the dot-com primary.

GREGORY: What this means is that big brands see big opportunities. He gives an example of what a company like Canon could do. In addition to acquiring what are called generic domain names like dot-camera, Canon could create photo-sharing websites all grouped within the dot-Canon or dot-camera domains.

Mr. ERNST: So not only is Canon now going to be dot-Canon, but Canon can now issue secondary domains to every one of its camera owners, and what they might very well do is embed a chip in their cameras that link that camera owner to their ID so that as they're taking photos, they could just be automatically uploading photos to a photo-sharing site, and that's just one possibility.

Ms. DYSON: Canon.com works fine, as far as I'm concerned.

GREGORY: Again, Esther Dyson. She says this is an expensive solution for the wrong problem.

Ms. DYSON: The real issue isn't even dot-com versus dot-camera. In the long run, it's let's use Google.

GREGORY: The current chairman of the board of ICANN insists what's best for consumers is choice. And, ultimately, there's no better way to see what consumers really want then by putting it up for sale.

Nina Gregory, NPR News.

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