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LOS ANGELES-The locally based group that oversees the Internet’s addressing system has approved the use of seven new suffixes, throwing open the door to a world that previously has been dominated by web sites that end with the familiar “.com.”

Most commercial real estate companies and even many hard-core web surfers have never heard of the LA-based Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers. But ICANN wields vast power over the Internet, in part because it’s responsible for approving or rejecting changes to the worldwide web’s addressing system.

At a meeting that wrapped up here over the weekend, the group approved the use of web addresses that end with .biz, .name, .info and .pro. Also approved were .museum, .aero and .coop.

The decision took three years to make. It is designed to relieve overcrowding on the web, where seemingly every conceivable address–more than 25 million in all–that could possibly end with .com, .net or .org has been taken.

Nearly 50 companies that register domain names must now negotiate new contracts with ICANN to begin issuing addresses with the new suffixes. Each must submit a proposal and a $50,000 check for consideration, an ICANN spokesman says. The new suffixes will likely go into use by the spring.

The “.biz” suffix will be assigned to businesses, much in the same way .com is used today. Ditto for “.info.”

Attorneys, doctors, accountants and the like will be able to use “.pro.” The “.aero” ending will be reserved for companies involved in air transportation and related fields.

Museums and other cultural institutions will get to use “.museum.” The “.coop” designation is geared toward cooperative businesses, such as farm co-ops. And “.name” is designed for use by individuals or families who want to use their family names, while avoiding confusion or even legal battles with corporations that have similar monike–good news for folks with names such as McDonald or Ford.

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