Ahead of the Bell: Cos. can bid for Internet names

NEW YORK (AP) ? Companies will be among those eligible to claim Internet address suffixes with brand names and other words.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers will start taking applications Thursday at 12:01 a.m. Greenwich Mean Time. That’s Wednesday at 7:01 p.m. EST.

There’s no need to rush, though. Applicants have until March to get started and until April 12 to finish, and there’s no advantage to starting early.

Up to 1,000 domain name suffixes ? the “.com” in an Internet address ? could be added each year in the most sweeping change to the domain name system since its creation in the 1980s.

Japanese camera and printer company Canon Inc. has already expressed interest in “.Canon.” Groups have formed to back “.sport” for sporting sites. Conservationist groups have discussed an “.eco” suffix. Trade groups for bankers and financial-services companies have explored applications for “.bank,” ”.insure” and “.invest” for their member companies.

Entrepreneurs are also expected to seek “.web” and other suffixes for general use. If a suffix becomes popular enough, its backers could earn millions of dollars a year from people and groups wanting a website that ends in that name.

Some business groups and government officials worry that an expansion will mean more addresses available to scams that use similar-sounding names such as “Amazom” rather than “Amazon” to trick people into giving passwords and credit card information. Other critics worry that new suffixes could create additional platforms for hate groups or lead to addresses ending in obscenities.