The BBC's Rory Cellan-Jones explains the domain name system
A complete overhaul of the way people navigate the internet could begin following a crucial vote in Paris.
The net's regulator Icann will vote to decide if the strict rules on so-called top level domain names, such as .com or .uk, can be relaxed.
If approved, firms could turn brands into web addresses while individuals could also grab a unique domain based on their name, for example.
Icann will also decide whether to allow names in Asian and Arabic languages.
"We are making it open for anyone to apply in any character set, not just Roman characters," Dr Paul Twomey, chief executive of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann), which acts as a sort of regulator for the net, told BBC News
He said that the proposals would result in the biggest change to the way the internet worked in decades.
"The impact of this will be different in different parts of the world. But it will allow groups, communities and business to express their identities online," he said.
"Like the United States in the 19th Century, we are in the process of opening up new real estate, new land, and people will go out and claim parts of that land and use it for various reasons they have.
"It's a massive increase in the geography of the real estate of the internet."
Icann has been working towards opening up net addresses for the past few years.
"We've done two rounds of experimental introductions over the last five or six years to see how it would work and the Icann board is now considering [expanding that]," explained Dr Twomey.
At the moment top level domains are currently limited to individual countries, such as .uk (UK) or .it (Italy), as well as to commerce, .com, and to institutional organisations, such as .net, or .org.
The .com suffix is the most popular and lucrative.
To get around the restrictions, some companies have used the current system to their own ends.
For example, the Polynesia island nation Tuvalu, has leased the use of the .tv address to many television firms.
Under the new plans hundreds of new domain names could be created by the end of the year, rising to thousands in the future.
Individuals will be able to register a domain based on their own name, or any other string of letters, as long as they can show a "business plan and technical capacity".
Companies will also be able to bid for addresses based on their brand names, although some believe they maybe faced with too much choice.
"Does Tesco want .supermarket or .groceries?" said Graham Hales, of branding consultancy Interbrand.
"Or maybe it wants .value or .everylittlehelps. The choice is endless."
This never ending list of potential web real estate could cause problems, believes Jay Scott Evans, former chair of Icann's intellectual property division and senior legal advisor for Yahoo.
"Why should brand owners have to invest huge amounts of money to protect their brands," he said.
It is a view echoed by Geoff Wicks, chief executive of NBT, owner of the domain name registry Netnames.
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