London: Come 2009, and almost any word will be able to replace ".com" in a Web page address — thanks to a decision made by the organisation that manages the technical underpinnings of the Web, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, (ICANN).
ICANN unanimously approved the new guidelines as weeklong meetings in Paris concluded.
Top-level domain names, or TLDs, refer to Internet name suffixes, such as the ubiquitous .com, .net and .org, among others. Currently, there are more than 200 TLDs, which also include the two-character country codes used by websites, such as Britain's .uk.
Under the new plans, a domain name, the suffix at the end of a website address, can now be based on any string of letters.
This will allow individuals to register a domain based on their own name, for example, as long as they can show a "business plan and technical capacity".
The result could be the creation of thousands or even millions of new addresses.
ICANN also voted collectively to open public comment on a separate proposal to permit addresses entirely in non-English languages for the first time.
"We are opening up a new world and I think this cannot be underestimated," BBC quoted Roberto Gaetano, a member of ICANN, as saying.
Dr Paul Twomey, chief executive of ICANN, described passing the resolution as a "historic moment".
ICANN officials said some technical issues for the new system must still be worked out, but it could be reviewing the first applications for new TLDs as early as 2009.