Registry 1st to offer ''

By Carlos Grande, Financial Times

A UK company has launched a global single market in "" internet addresses ahead of official plans for a domain to promote European Union e-commerce.

CentralNic, a London registry of domain names, is selling variations on the domain to any business worldwide seeking a European presence.

It claims businesses are frustrated by the time taken to launch the planned ".eu" domain and the bureaucratric registration rules of some EU states.

The European Commission - the EU's executive - has agreed the proposal for a .eu domain as a counterweight to the US domination of .com names. But the scheme must now be approved by Icann, the global internet domain name regulator.

It is not certain who will regulate the .eu domain - the first non-national, geographically specific domain. The Commission is thought to favour a non-profit independent organisation, although the details will need further consultation.

CentralNic, however, has raced ahead by buying the domain "" from a German couple who registered it several years ago but never used it.