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Domain registry touts dot-surnames for $500k

Coming in 2013: Paris.hilton?

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Could it be the ultimate in internet vanity addresses?

A British company thinks the "ultra wealthy" will be prepared to splash out a cool $500,000 (£317k) to get their own top-level family domain name.

CentralNic has launched dotFamilyName, a service it says is designed to help "high net worth families" apply to ICANN next year for a new internet extension matching their surname.

Alongside .com and .uk, could the internet see a .buffett, .rockefeller or .hilton? Could the internet address paris.hilton soon become a reality?

CentralNic thinks so, and does not agree that the idea is tasteless.

"In the UK, some people spend more money than this getting a licence plate for their car," said CEO Ben Crawford. "Not many people, granted, but for a certain group of people their name is very important to them."

ICANN, the group which oversees the internet's domain name system, will start accepting applications for new extensions in January, charging $185,000 in application fees.

With extras such as legal fees and possibly auction bids, each successful application is expected to cost between a few hundred thousand dollars and many millions.

It's already broadly expected that companies will apply for hundreds of new extensions – everything from generic terms such as .sport and .music to brand names such as .nike and .coke. The first wave could start going live in early 2013.

CentralNic believes that .familynames for the super-rich is a logical extension of that movement.

"There's absolutely real interest in this," said Crawford. "We decided to do this offering quite some time ago, and we've been in discussions with people for quite a while."

Using words such as "legacy" and "reputation", the company suggests the domains could be just as easily used for private family networking or public-facing content.

But what if you're Brian Rockefeller, working on the fish counter at Tesco? Can you stop your far wealthier counterparts claiming online ownership of your family name in perpetuity?

ICANN does plan to offer a number of objection mechanisms, one of which is an open public comment period during which anybody can protest any application for no charge.

ICANN's gTLD evaluators will take these comments into account when deciding whether to approve an application, along with more formal objections filed by trademark owners and governments.

"You can object, but that won't get you the name," Crawford said. "The only way to get the name is to apply."

London-based CentralNic, which currently offers pseudo-extensions such as .uk.com and .us.org, says it will help these applicants apply to ICANN for the name, and then manage the registry afterwards. ®

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