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Globe joins race for new domain names

Journalists examined new domain names at a press conference hosted by ICANN in central London on Wednesday.

Andrew Cowie/AFP/Getty Images

Journalists examined new domain names at a press conference hosted by ICANN in central London on Wednesday.

Get ready for a whole new wave of website addresses.

By next year, the Internet could have hundreds of new domain names — the labels that come after the dot in website addresses. On Wednesday, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, a nonprofit group that manages Internet domains, revealed about 2,000 applications for new domains as part of the biggest-ever expansion of Web addresses.

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Among the Massachusetts applicants are the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which is seeking the domain .mit; office products retailer Staples Inc., which applied for .staples; retail giant TJX Cos. Inc., which is seeking seven domain names, including .tjmaxx and .marshalls — both based on its brands; and The Boston Globe, which has applied to run the domain .boston.

The expansion will create potentially lucrative opportunities for successful applicants, who will be named administrators of the new domain names, able to use, sell, or give away website addresses that use their particular domain suffixes.

“This is the biggest thing that has happened to the Internet since it was introduced,” said Jeff Ernst, principal analyst at Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge. “This is more than just moving your brand name from the left to the right of the dot. This is about the ability to operate a domain name registry at the root of the Internet.”

It costs $185,000 to apply for a single domain name. Among the most active applicants are the most familiar names on the Internet. Search giant Google Inc. applied for about 100 domains — from .blog to .youtube.

Online retailer Amazon.com Inc. is after .movie, .news, and .pay. Some popular domain names, like .baby, attracted several suitors. Eight other applicants are vying with Google for .blog.

The process of approving or denying the applications could take years, said Geri Haight, an intellectual property lawyer at the Boston law firm Mintz Levin.

The first new domains are not expected to be available until next year.

Now that the applications are public, competing applicants and other interested parties can weigh in on which domain names should be awarded, said Haight. Some brands, for instance, might protest a competitor’s application on the grounds that it would give them an unfair advantage to own a particular Web domain.

There are currently only 22 so-called top-level domain names, including .org, .net, and .biz, as well as geographic domain names such as .ru for Russia. The most common domain by far is .com.

Many of the applicants were companies seeking domains related to their brands or their lines of business. Fidelity Investments in Boston, for example, applied for the domains .ira, .fidelity, .mutualfunds, and .retirement.

“We filed primarily to protect the Fidelity brand, which is among our most valuable intangible assets and a trusted financial brand,” said Jenny Engle, a Fidelity spokeswoman.

Geographic domains such as .boston and .nyc are in demand from applicants that want their website addresses to be associated with their locations. Boston city officials supplied a letter endorsing the Globe’s application to manage the domain .boston. In return, the city will receive website addresses named for city functions, such as police.boston.

“We had many conversations with [the Globe] to ensure that they would manage the domain appropriately, and in a way that enhanced the brand of our city, provided affordable access to .boston domains, and supported the region’s innovation efforts,” said Bill Oates, chief information officer for the city of Boston, in a statement.

The Globe operates the websites boston.com and bostonglobe.com, which receive a total of more than 7 million unique visitors per year.

“The Boston Globe sees the new domain extensions as a great opportunity to organize and promote websites for our innovative city, and is pleased to have the endorsement of the city of Boston for this application,” said Christopher Mayer, publisher of the Globe.

Mayer said that in the coming months, the Globe and the city will be revealing plans to manage the .boston domain “for the benefit of our city, its businesses, organizations, and residents.”

Michael B. Farrell can be reached at michael.farrell@globe.com.
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