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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 October 2007, 00:27 GMT 01:27 UK
Internet names for Asia launched
Chinese net user, AFP/Getty
China's .cn domain is becomingly increasingly popular
The .asia regional internet domain has officially opened for business, with big firms expected to grab addresses.

Governments and companies can now register interest in specific domain names, such as www.namehere.asia.

Companies will be able to register domains for which they own a trademark and governments will get a chance to earmark those on a reserved list.

The general public will get a chance to snap up their own .asia domain when the landrush starts in February 2008.

Wide reach

Work to create the .asia domain began in 2000. The DotAsia Organisation won official approval to set up the domain in mid-October 2006 and the first .asia domains should go live on the internet in March 2008.

Unlike other administrators of net domains, the DotAsia Registry plans to use an auction to determine who gets domains wanted by more than one organisation. The highest bidder will win the right to the contested name.

The geographical reach of the .asia domain extends from Australia to the Middle East. In all, 20 organisations that run country code domains have signed up to back the .asia registry.

The .asia domain is the second regional domain to go live following the European .eu suffix which started selling in April 2006. Other regional domains for Africa and Latin America are expected to follow.

Lesley Cowley, chief executive of .uk registry Nominet, said regional domains could prove to be a good option because many nations imposed stringent conditions on anyone wanting to register and use country code addresses.

Ms Cowley expected many of the initial requests for .asia domains to come from companies that need to defend the trademarks they own in the region.

"There is going to be an ever-increasing number of suffixes," she said. "Companies need to decide whether they are going to protect their registered marks in each and every one."

Despite the diversity of languages spoken in Asia, all the domains offered initially will be written using the Latin alphabet which is already used in established generic domains such as .com and country codes such as .uk.

Eventually though domains will be offered in character sets used in Asian nations but the DotAsia Organisation has given no hint about when this will begin.

At the same time that the sunrise period for .asia begins, net address overseer Icann (The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) is starting trials of a system that will let net addresses be written in local alphabets.

Icann will trial addresses written in Arabic, Persian, simplified Chinese, traditional Chinese, Russian, Hindi, Greek, Korean, Hebrew, Japanese and Tamil.

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