A wide variety of top-level domain names (website suffixes) have been approved by a special board meeting of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) in Singapore today. This is one of the biggest changes to the Internet landscape since the introduction of .com  about 26 years ago. The new domain names can be on any subject and in any language, including scripts like Chinese or Arabic. According to ICANN this will offer “organizations around the world the opportunity to market their brand, products, community or cause in new and innovative ways.”

There are currently 22 top-level domain names, including .com, .org and .net, which do not require a country code. By the end of 2012 domain names may include suffixes like .love, .web, .vegan and .puppy. Large companies will be able to build their brands by having website addresses like iphone.apple and yaris.toyota.

The application process for a new domain will include a fee of $185,000 and a 360-page form. There is also an annual license fee of $25,000 once the new domain name is approved. Applications will be accepted from January 12, 2012 up to April 12, 2012. The expensive and rigorous application process, which includes government policy and trademark infringement checks, is meant to deter any unscrupulous applicants.

ICANN will launch a global campaign to raise awareness about the new top-level domains.