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 Internet oversight agency, Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) said yesterday.

The initial ones, expected in mid-2013, will likely be in Chinese and other languages besides English, said Fadi Chehade, ICANN's CEO.

That will be followed within weeks by English suffixes that do not have competing bidders. Although the specific names won't be announced until late 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.'

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Many proposed suffixes, such as '.app', '.music' and '.tech,' will likely 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.

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

Trademark holders will have a chance to register names ending in one of the new suffixes before registration opens to the general public. If a company chooses not to register the name right away, the Trademark Clearinghouse will notify the company when someone else tries to do so. The system, however, will not block that name from going through, and parties must work out disputes themselves, such as through arbitration.

ICANN received more than 100 proposals for names in other languages, the bulk of them for the Chinese equivalent of words such as 'company' and 'online'. ICANN's board had agreed to review those first.

Meanwhile, ICANN said Monday that it would spread its operations to three locations around the world to cover all time zones. Headquarters will remain in Los Angeles, with hubs expected in Singapore and Istanbul, Turkey, by mid-2013. Chehade said the change would help ICANN avoid hiring a US-centric staff as the Internet address system expands to accommodate users worldwide.

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