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"The biggest change to the Internet since its inception": Massive domain name expansion underway

After years of preparation, the rollout of new generic top-level domains (gTLD) is finally underway, with the Internet's governing body today delegating the first new domains.

They are in Arabic, Chinese, and Cyrillic scripts, including Arabic for "web/network," Cyrillic for "online" and "site," and Chinese for "game(s)," the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) announced.

"It's happening – the biggest change to the Internet since its inception," Akram Atallah, president of ICANN's Generic Domains Division, said in a statement. "In the weeks and months ahead, we will see new domain names coming online from all corners of the world, bringing people, communities and businesses together in ways we never imagined. It's this type of innovation that will continue to drive our global society."

At this point, there are 22 gTLDs, including .com, .org, and .net. In June 2011, however, ICANN approved a plan that would allow people to apply for new gTLDs, like .itproportal, for example. ICANN started accepting gTLD applications via its TLD Application System (TAS) on 12 January 2012, and after a glitch took the system offline for several days, the application process closed in May 2012, and officials started sorting through the submissions.

Earlier this year, ICANN said the rollout of hundreds of new Web address suffixes was expected by mid-2013, and that day has now arrived.

The new gTLDs are not quite ready for primetime yet, though. The registries, or groups that will be overseeing each gTLD, must first complete a 30-day process intended to protect trademark rights holders. After that, "a registry can make the new gTLD available to the general public at its discretion."

"Our efforts to ensure the secure and stable introduction of these new gTLDs is unparalleled," said Christine Willett, vice president of gTLD Operations at ICANN.

The complete rollout of new gTLDs could take several years, ICANN said.