Residents and companies in the European Union can now apply for .eu domain names.

Several thousand new names, to be allocated on a first come, first served basis were expected to be registered within hours of the official 'landrush' beginning at 11am Central European Time, but the reality has exceeded expectations.

The registry received 390,000 applications in the first 100 minutes after registration was opened to EU residents, the European Union information society and media commissioner Viviane Reding said on Friday.

The new internet top-level domain (TLD) .eu was introduced in December 2005. Backed by the EU, the domain is intended for businesses, organisations and consumers in the 25-nation trading bloc.

From December 7, 2005 to April 6, 2006, a 'sunrise' period of registration was available to public bodies and business trademark holders with prior rights, under a process managed by Eurid vzw in cooperation with a network of more than 1,000 accredited registrars across the world.

Eurid received more than 30,000 prior-rights applications, which the organisation is currently processing.

Anyone interested in registering in registering for the .eu domain should contact one of the registrars. A list of accredited registrars is available online.