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updated 2/4/2008 1:14:28 PM ET 2008-02-04T18:14:28

A new "dot-post" Internet address in the works aims to set apart the electronic services increasingly offered by postal agencies around the world.

Backers say restricting the ".post" domain name to postal agencies or groups that provide postal services would instill trust in Web sites using such names. By contrast, popular suffixes such as ".com" and ".org" are assigned on a first-come, first-served basis.

The Internet's key oversight agency, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, is trying to work out contract terms for the suffix with the U.N. Universal Postal Union. Approval could come as early as mid-February and implementation several months later.

"Dot-post is an extension of the innovation currently happening in the postal agencies," said Paul Donohoe, the postal union's eBusiness manager. "They are investigating services that are looking for alternative ways to add value to communications."

Services unveiled or proposed around the world include electronic postmarks, online billing and payments and hybrid mail — when a digital document gets printed by the postal service and delivered as paper, or when physical mail gets scanned into an electronic document for delivery.

If the suffix is approved, the U.N. postal agency would assign domain names under it to individual national agencies, which could then distribute sub-domains to contractors and other service providers.

The U.N. agency also could assign names directly to mail-related industries, such as direct marketing and stamp collecting.

The postal union proposed ".post" in March 2004. ICANN gave it a tentative OK that October, but Donohoe said final approval has been delayed partly because of the structure of the U.N. agency — one requiring unique contract terms.

ICANN has said it may start a new round of applications later this year.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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