A forthcoming ruling by the board that approves Internet names and address could allow for countless new top level domain names such as “.coke,” to join the popular existing ones such as .com and .net domains.

Brand owners will soon be able to operate their own parts of the Web — such as .apple, .coke or .marlboro — after the biggest shake-up yet in how Internet domains are awarded.

After years of preparation and wrangling, ICANN, the body that coordinates Internet names, approved the move at a special board meeting in Singapore on Monday.

Prior to the vote, just 22 generic top-level domains (gTLDs) existed — .com, .org and .info are a few examples — plus about 250 country-level domains like .uk or .cn. After the change, several hundred new gTLDs are expected to be created.

Will people understand what the new “buy.iphone” domains are? Or is this move likely to bring back the “www” prefix which was just starting to fade away as irrelevant? Email and social messaging platforms like AOL’s Instant Messanger and Facebook already turn words with no space after a period into links, opening the doors for new possibilities for corporate domain squatters to take advantage of frequently made typos.

“We’re advising people to buy their brands, park them and redirect visitors to their existing site, at the very least,” says Hnarakis, whose more than 3,500 customers include Volvo, Lego and GlaxoSmithKline.
Applications for new domain names are likely to open in January for a 90-day period before closing again, potentially for years.

It will cost $185,000 to apply, and individuals or organizations will have to show a legitimate claim to the name they are buying. ICANN is taking on hundreds of consultants to whom it will outsource the job of adjudicating claims.

“The commercial participants are the most active, aggressive and articulate members of our society,” ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom told Reuters in a recent interview, saying trademark owners in particular were anxious about how the new regime would work.