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Flanders demands its own top-level domain

Flems go to war over a scrap of paper a URL

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The detente between Belgium's fractious regions is under strain again after the Flemish parliament demanded its own top-level domain.

Instead of .be it wants vla, .vln, .vlaanderen or .fla. Kris Peeters, the prime minister of Flanders, says he will look into the possibility of creating such a domain extension.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) recently approved a recommendation that could see a whole range of new names introduced to the internet’s addressing system. In the future, you can put almost anything at the end of a URL, eschewing existing top-level domains such as ".com" or ".edu." Peeters believes a vla. or fla. domain will cost around €100,000.

Parliament member Mark Demesmaeker favours .vla as it represents the Dutch word for Flanders, Vlaanderen.

The Flemish have a reason for this demand: the tension between the Dutch-speaking Flemish and Francophones is still rising amid rows over devolution. Half the Flemish want to split from Belgium, although French-speaking Belgians want to preserve the country.

Prime minister Peeters told the BBC this week he is not in favour of independence, but believes in a "Copernican revolution", where federal powers are greatly reduced and the main decisions are taken by regions. Or alternatively, he wants the world to revolve around Belgium's Dutch-speaking population. A Flemish top-level domain could help, but only if bilingual Brussels gets its own. ®

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