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Don't want .com? Alternatives could cost you $340,000

The internet's key oversight agency issued preliminary guidelines for the introduction of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of alternatives to ".com" in the first sweeping changes to the network's 25-year-old address system.

But individuals should forget about claiming a personal domain name suffix for themselves or their families.

The application fee, scheduled to be disclosed on Friday, is expected to approach $200,000 (£123,000) - partially refundable only in limited circumstances - to help cover the potential $20 million (£12.3 million) cost of crafting the guidelines and reviewing applications.

By contrast, the cost of a personal domain name as part of an existing suffix like ".com" is typically less than £10. Individuals should still be able to register addresses that cheaply; what would be costly is getting their own suffix.

The new suffixes could cover locations such as ".nyc" and ".berlin" or industries such as ".bank." Though the hefty application fees will likely curb a rush for individual vanity names, larger companies might claim brands - like ".disney."

The draft rules would permit addresses entirely in non-English languages for the first time and ban suffixes that use only numerals, to avoid technical conflicts. The proposals also address potential conflicts, such as multiple requests for the same name or a bid for someone else's trademark or a geographic location.

The internet Corporation for Assigned Names or Numbers, or ICANN, is accepting comments from the public for 45 days and plans to start accepting bids early next year. New names won't start appearing in use until at least the end of 2009.

See the ICANN documentation here .