Hundreds of thousands of businesses raced to snap up ".eu" internet domain names, with "sex.eu" taking the prize for the most sought-after address on the first day companies could apply.
Two months after the .eu domain name was launched for public institutions and trademark holders, the tag was opened up to companies other than those seeking a site for a brand, as well as for art works and literature.
Within the first hour, sex.eu domain had received 23 applications, followed by schumacher.eu with 15, realestate.eu with 12 and business.eu also with 12 applications, said the European Registry of Internet Domain Names (Eurid).
Eurid, the non-profit organisation appointed by the European Commission to manage requests, reported fierce demand for the ".eu" domain names.
In the first 15 minutes, it received 27,949 applications and after one hour the number had risen to 71,235.
The ".eu" domain name is not supposed to replace national endings such as ".fr" and ".de" but rather offer the possibility of a pan-European identity in cyberspace.
Germany -- which already has 9.5 million ".de" names -- led the way and was by mid afternoon making up 30.5 percent of the total applications received to date followed by the Netherlands with 16 percent and France with 10.6 percent.
A Eurid spokesman said that technically anyone who could claim a prior right to a domain name could apply although in reality that mostly meant that companies were applying.
Individuals will have to wait until the second quarter of 2006 before trying to get access to their own veritable European piece of the Internet.
Eurid chose to introduce the ".eu" in phases in hope of being able to discourage cybersquatting, when firms or individuals lay claim to a domain name likely to be sought by a somebody with a similar name.
During the first phase reserved for institutions and trademark holders, ".eu" has proved hugely popular. About 180,000 requests made for 131,000 domain names during that period and about half of that was made on the very first day.
The European Commission, which has been pushing the idea, hopes that ".eu" domain names will soon rival the ".com" that currently dominates the web and currently counts about 40 million variations.
About a million ".eu" domain names are expected to be up and working by the end of the year.
Just because a company applies Tuesday does not mean that it will get the name because the application process works on the basis of first-come, first-served.
If two or more companies apply for the same domain name, then the runners up can appeal, by rapidly offering evidence to back their claim and prove that it is more justified than the others.
Copyright 2006 Agence France Presse.
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