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Capital gets trendy address: .London on its way

But not in time for the Olympics ...

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London could soon get its very own top-level internet address, .london.

Official city promoter London & Partners is set to announce later today that it is looking for companies to help submit a bid for .london to global domain name overseer ICANN.

Several companies, including .uk manager Nominet, are expected to respond to a request for proposals that published this afternoon.

Next January, ICANN will start to allow any well-funded organisation to apply to run a so-called generic top-level domain (gTLD), and many cities are expected to submit bids.

The application process is expected take many months to complete, so there is no chance that .london will be ready in time for the Olympics next year.

But if the plans go ahead, by 2013 Londoners could be able to register domain names such as bobstaxis.london or museums.london to promote their websites.

London would join the likes of Paris, Rome, Madrid, Berlin and Riga, all of which are expected to seek their own extensions next year.

"We've been watching some other world capital cities," said Nominet chief executive Lesley Cowley, "and it's pretty hard to imagine London being left behind."

Nominet intends to respond to the .london RFP, she said. It would run .london on a not-for-profit basis, returning excess funds to good causes, much as the Nominet Trust does today.

Bidders could also include CentralNic, the London-based company that manages pseudo-gTLDs such as uk.com and .gb.com and has been aggressively pursuing new gTLD opportunities.

"It would only make complete sense for a London business to be awarded the .london contract, so of course we're very interested," said CentralNic CEO Ben Crawford.

If London & Partners entertains offers from overseas companies, established US players such as VeriSign, (.com), Afilias (.info) and Neustar (.biz) are potential bidders, as are upstarts such as Minds+ Machines, whose holding company is listed on London's Alternative Investment Market.

The possibility of a .london raises some intriguing questions, such as: should the space be shared with much smaller cities of the same name, such as London, Ontario?

ICANN's rules do give capital cities special privileges, so it's quite possible that .london could be reserved just for people and businesses based in the Big Smoke.

Under ICANN's rules, any capital city bid must be accompanied by a statement of support or non-objection from the relevant government. In the case of .london, this is expected to mean both Mayoral and Ministerial backing.

London & Partners is responsible for promoting tourism in the city. It was set up by Mayor Boris Johnson in a cost-cutting reshuffle of London's PR departments in April. ®

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