DotAsia Organisation, the Hong Kong-based group that operates the .asia top-level internet domain name registry, will go live next week after achieving more than half a million domain name applications for registration since October last year. The organisation has succeeded in sparking a digital land rush with the new regional top-level domain (TLD) extension, which has elicited 505,838 applications for registration. The .asia registry will go live on March 26, when domain names will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. DotAsia's authority to sponsor and run the registry was delegated in 2006 by the United States-based Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, which oversees the assignment of domain names and internet protocol addresses worldwide. A domain name identifies one or more IP addresses. Each domain name includes a suffix of the TLD that it belongs to. The number of so-called generic TLDs is limited and these include .com (for businesses), .edu (educational institutions), .gov (government agencies) and .org (organisations). A country code TLD, such as .hk, denotes location. 'Beyond just brand protection, the .asia domain can be an asset to an enterprise's corporate identity and can be used as a portal to the whole Asia market,' said Edmon Chung Wang-on, the chief executive of DotAsia. The top domain name registrars in the land rush phase of registration completed last week include AsiaDNS, Dotalliance, Communigal Communications, GoDaddy.com, Key-Systems, Gabia, HiChina Web Solutions, DomainPeople, Yesnic and NamesBeyond.com. According to DotAsia, 45,697 domain names received more than one application during the land rush phase and will go to auction. Out of that number, buy.asia was the most sought after with over 400 applicants fighting for the name. Other highly prized domain names include: hot.asia, gold.asia, fun.asia and girl.asia. During the so-called 'Sunrise' phase of registration - which started in October last year and was completed in January - 1,051 domain names received more than one application. The domain name which received the most applications during this period was sex.asia, with 14 prior-right claims filed. Richard Schreier, the chief executive of Pool.com, a leading domain-name acquisition firm, said: 'The .asia names have limitless potential. With over 510 million people online in the Asia-Pacific region, it's the fastest-growing audience in the world.' The value of internet domain names has risen to staggering heights in recent years. A list of more than 20 large domain name acquisitions since 1996, compiled by DotAsia, showed poker.com was sold for a record US$26 million early last year and diamond.com fetched US$7.5 million in 2006. A live ticker with the latest auction results can be found on www.registry.asia . 'It will be interesting to see which of the domain names would fetch the highest prices in the auction.' Mr Chung said.