The European Union expects a surge of applications next week when its ".eu" regional domain name opens for registration.
"I expect a real rush, several hundred thousand in the first few days," EU Information Society Commissioner Viviane Reding told reporters Thursday. "European companies should waste no time and register for the new ‘.eu' domain name."
Reding and other supporters believe such a domain will help promote European identity and create greater visibility for pan-European e-commerce. Currently, businesses must use domains for their particular country, such as ".fr" for France, or a global one like ".com," which is seen by some as mostly a U.S. suffix.
Registration for ".eu" names begins on Dec. 7 at 10 a.m. GMT.
For the first two months, only certain rights holders such as registered trademark owners, public bodies and companies can register. On Feb. 2, ".eu" opens up to family names. General registration begins April 7 on a first-come, first-served basis.
Reding said the restricted periods were needed "to reduce considerably the risk of cyber-squatting" — the illicit use of domain names for fraudulent use.
Such periods, known as sunrise, are typical these days as new domains get introduced.
The ".eu" domain name will be run by EURid, a private European nonprofit group. About 750 licensed resellers will accept registrations on EURid's behalf.
Registrations are limited to people who live in the EU and to companies with headquarters or branches inside the 25-nation bloc.
Prices are expected to range from euro80 to euro140 ($94 to $164) during the sunrise periods. They should drop to euro25 to euro30 ($29 to $35) once regular registration begins.
There are about 250 domain names on the Internet, but they are typically assigned by country or territory.
The Internet's key oversight agency, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, made an exception because EU is on a special "reserved" list kept by the International Organization for Standards, a worldwide standardization body.
ICANN also is considering a ".asia" name for that continent.