Hundreds of new website suffixes should begin appearing by late next year after the organization that oversees the Internet address system voted Monday to greatly expand domain names.
The new domains could be categorized by subjects including industry, geography and ethnicity and include Arabic, Chinese and other scripts, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers said at a meeting in Singapore.
"This is the start of a whole new phase for the internet," said Peter Dengate Thrush, chairman of ICANN's board of directors. "Unless there is a good reason to restrain it, innovation should be allowed to run free."
ICANN's decision culminates six years of negotiations and is the biggest change to the domain name system since .com was introduced 26 years ago.
ICANN will receive applications for new domain names -- the fee is $185,000 and the form is 360 pages -- for 90 days beginning January 12.
ICANN said in a statement that it will embark on a global communications program to raise awareness of the opportunities to new domain names.