The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has begun accepting applications for new generic top-level domains (gTLDs).

Currently, there are 22 top-level domain endings, such as .com, .info and .org. However, in June this year ICANN voted to approve a plan to ensure URLs can end with almost any word, so web addresses could feature suffixes such as .web, .music and .love. For the first time generic TLDs can also include words in non-Latin languages, such as Cyrillic, Chinese or Arabic.

However, the application process is complicated as firms need to provide an extensive business plans, financial statements and technical documentation about how they will operate their new domain name registry. They'll also need to stump up a $185,000 application fee, which ICANN will keep regardless of the outcome of the application.

Furthermore, in a bid to stop cyber-squatters, firms that apply for a URL with a new top level domain will be required maintain their website accessed through the URL.

Those interested in registering a new gTLD have until March 29 to register for the TLD Application System (TAS), which will be used to submit their application. April 12 is the final day for applications to be submitted.

Andreas Edler, managing director of web hosting firm, Hostway UK, said the introduction of new gTLDs is likely be welcomed by the big global brands that have the money to pay for costly registry rights and marketing power to promote the new address to customers.

"However, all businesses should now be thinking about the value that TLDs will bring to their organisation and identifying any relevant ones to pursue. In the future, we could even see brands reselling these domains as third-level extensions to partners to enhance their brand recognition and recoup costs," he said.

Undoubtedly, the availability of a whole raft of new TLDs will raise a number of cybersquatting concerns. For companies that have invested heavily in establishing their online brand it is now a question of whether they make protective registrations now or take their chances later, once gTLDs become more prevalent."