BRUSSELS, Belgium - The European Union planted its flag in cyberspace Wednesday when the ".eu" Internet domain name opened for business.
Until now, Europeans had to choose between a national domain such as ".fr" for France or a global one like ".com," which is often seen as American.
EU Information Society Commissioner Viviane Reding said she expected several hundred thousand sign-ups for ".eu" in the first few days. National registries in some countries — such as Belgium, home to the EU headquarters in Brussels — are offering promotions to persuade Internet users to stay local.
But do Europeans want a ".eu" domain name? Some business groups are uncertain how popular it will be. Europeans have an EU flag, an EU passport and an EU anthem but many have a lukewarm attitude to European integration — as French and Dutch "no" votes to a new constitution showed this year.
Carsten Dannoehl of EU business lobby UNICE says the new address would appeal to many companies. "Before we had `Made in Germany' — now we have `Made in the European Union,'" he said.
An EU small-business lobby known as UEAPME was one of the groups queuing up to register a ".eu" name on the first day. Richard More O'Ferrall, spokesman for the group, said the ".eu" domain would help promote European identity and boost Europe's slow moves into e-commerce.
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