A European Union Web address took a critical step toward becoming a reality this week after gaining the approval of the Internets domain-name oversight body.
ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) announced Thursday that its board of directors has backed the creation of .eu, a country code top-level domain name first proposed by the European Commission.
The approval follows months of contractual negotiations between ICANN and EURid, the Leuven, Belgium-based registry selected by the European Commission to operate the domain.
The broad availability of .eu domain-name registrations remains at least a year away.
According to EURid, the next step for .eu will be its inclusion into the domain name system root, or master directory, within the next 10 days. The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority oversees the root.
"Having .eu in the root sets the green light for the launch of .eu," said EURid General Manager Marc Van Wesemael, in a statement.
By the end of the year, EURid plans to begin accepting early registrations of .eu domains from government bodies and companies holding trademarks and other rights to names in a so-called "sunrise period."
The sunrise period is expected to last about four months.
EURid is still finalizing its policy for .eu registrations, which must gain the approval of the European Commission.
The registry also must develop a network of registrars, the companies that directly sell .eu registrations to consumers and businesses. To kick off that effort, it plans to publish its agreement for registrars in May, EURid said.
Creating a domain name for the European Union has not been easy.
The European Union first proposed .eu in 2000 as a way of identifying European companies and institutions and to jumpstart electronic commerce in Europe.
Instead of becoming a quick reality, though, the .eu domain name has weaved its way through legislative and bureaucratic hurdles.