Officials yesterday announced plans for the regulation of '.hk' domain names - but the proposals were criticised as too little, too late. Internet companies said many Hong Kong firms preferred to use '.com' addresses which would not fall under the recommended controls. A taskforce was set up last October to propose regulation of the '.hk' domain names. Chairman, Professor Charles Kao Kuen, said the rules were designed to encourage electronic commerce while minimising 'cyber-squatting'. Cyber-squatting is the registering of well-known trademarks and business names as domain names by individuals who then try to sell them. Professor Kao, formerly of Chinese University, said that under the proposals, an independent body would be formed to protect domain names, a job now performed by the Hong Kong Network Information Centre under the Joint Universities Computer Centre. The centre's technical operations have been run by the Computer Services Centre at Chinese University since 1990. Companies will be allowed to register more than one domain name. Names will also be permitted for sites operated by individuals. At present, single '.hk' names are for businesses and only registered companies can apply for domain names. Most Internet companies welcomed the planned rules, but some said the Government's actions were a case of too little, too late. 'I think it's a positive thing, and it shows that the Government is beginning to understand the Internet and its impact on Hong Kong,' said Yat Siu, founder and chief executive officer of Web portal Outblaze.com. 'But the reality as I see it is that most sites don't go for the '.com.hk' address. They go for the simpler '.com'. 'Look at all the ads on the buses around town. Most only have '.com' in the address.' The new plans also set out a method of resolving domain name complaints to try to solve cyber-squatting issues. 'We hope that this new, third-party arbitration body will simplify the way cases are handled and stop them from having to go to court,' said Director of Information Technology Services Lau Kam-hung. Mr Lau said the information centre received only one or two domain name complaints every three months. As of April, there were about 37,000 sites with '.hk' domain names. The centre receives more than 2,000 new applications every month. The plans are open for public comment until July 16.