RealNames Clones Causing Confusion

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Earlier this year, I wrote about the closure of the RealNames system, which allowed Internet Explorer users to navigate directly to web sites by using ordinary words in place of URLs.

Since then, I've received a steady stream of emails from people who are hearing from other companies that suggest they've taken over the role that RealNames used to have with Microsoft. Here are two such emails:

"I received a call today from [company name removed” that claims to have a 10 year advertising deal with When a person types phrases into their web browser, they will be taken directly to those advertising with this company. I wanted to find out if you've heard of this before, and if so, what you've heard about it."

"We have been approached by [company name removed” to purchase keywords that would go to our site when typed in the address bar. What do you know about this? Is it legitimate, or will Microsoft stomp it out?"

There are several companies that provide keyword navigation systems or "namespace" services, just like RealNames did. For instance, Netword is a long-time player in the space, many years old. Common Name is one I've only recently heard of, but the company claims to have been operating since 2000. iGetNet is a brand new company, launched in May of this year.

Unlike RealNames, none of these companies offers native integration of their namespace services into Internet Explorer. In other words, when RealNames was operational, anyone using Internet Explorer had access to it. It was built into the browser. In contrast, the only people who can use the namespaces offered by these other companies via Internet Explorer are those relatively few who have installed special software or "plug-ins."

Microsoft ended its partnership with RealNames in May, and the RealNames system formally closed down a month later. Since then, Microsoft has not named another company to take the place of RealNames nor indicated any immediate plans to resurrect a wide-range namespace system of its own or through a third party.

There is a new MSN Keywords system that will roll out with the MSN 8 Explorer browser, expected to be made available later this month. Similar to AOL Keywords, these are a single words or short phrases that work only for those within the new paid MSN service. They will deliver people to particular pages that Microsoft has selected, such as "news" leading to MSNBC. The terms are not sold, limited in number and do not work in Internet Explorer, Microsoft says.

In short, any sales pitch suggesting that a namespace system is "built into" or "native" to Internet Explorer is incorrect. A sales pitch that a systems work with Internet Explorer is not wrong, but understand that this is only true for the relatively few users that have installed the necessary software.

A longer, more detailed version of this article is
available to Search Engine Watch members.
Click here to learn more about becoming a member

RealNames To Close After Losing Microsoft
The Search Engine Report, June 3, 2002

Background on the RealNames relationship with Microsoft.

How RealNames Works

For Search Engine Watch members, this page provides links to all past major articles about the now-defunct RealNames system.


Common Name


IGN Downloads

You can get the IGN plug-in here or alternatively get an uninstaller, if you have it on your system inadvertently.

Gates to launch MSN 8 in October
InfoWorld, Oct. 1, 2002

More information about the launch of MSN 8.