I am a founder and CEO at SignalRank, a data driven technology company. I publish a weekly newsletter – That Was The Week – on Substack. The posts here are pulled from it. I also have a video podcast with Andrew Keenthat accompanies it each week. You can see the full catalogue on AnchorSpotify , Youtubeand Apple Podcasts. And I am a regular guest on Steve Gillmor’s The Gillmor Gang.

Microsoft/RealNames, realnames


A little bit of news. I have recently reacquired the RealNames domain name – realnames.com. This is some 30 months after we were forced to close the company.

It feels good to have 100% ownership back of a thing I spent 5 years creating. To be honest I’m not yet sure what I will do with it.

Anyway, I have all of the old data and have created – over a weekend – a new search engine based on the RealNames data. Yes I coded it myself – and it shows grin

There are 3 types of search allowed:

Keyword search. This produces exact match “authoritative results” on the left of the screen and “search results” based on partial match on the right. The query – in each case – is against the old RealNames “Internet Keyword”. Incidentally I also own internetkeywords.com, [.org and .net also].

Domain Search. This produces all Keywords within a DNS domain. So it maps a domain name to associated Keywords from the RealNames “Internet Keyword” database.

Description Search. this searches the RealNames data across all fields and produces results more in keeping with today’s search engines.

It’s here: http://www.realnames.com

For the historically curious, it isn’t widely known but these Keywords were the first “pay-per-click” offering on the Internet. They were embedded in AltaVista search from early 1998 and the data was maintained up until 18 months ago. RealNames – which was originally called Go Inc. – had hundreds of customers paying us on a CPC basis by 1999. Bill Gross formed GoTo.com, whch became Overture, after discussing our business plan in early 1997. The original Go Inc business plan from 1996 is here:Go_Plans,_Oct_1996.pdf

For what it’s worth I believe there are enormous opportunities to innovate in search today. The crawl, index and rank approach that has done such a good job in dealing with the static web is very poor at dealing with today’s web. New challenges, and new data dynamics, mean lots of potential to innovate.

Additionally the original problem addressed by RealNames – that is the poverty of the DNS as a naming and navigation system for the world’s internet users – remains unresolved.

Google’s direct navigation via Keyword feature [ in the Google toolbar], and Microsoft’s version of the same thing (try typing a natural language Keyword in the IE browser that does not have the Google toolbar installed] are both falling far short of what is needed – a standard, natural language, naming layer, available through all browsers, and embedded as a sub-index in all search engines, with the ability to have names registered in all human readable scripts.

Neither Google nor Microsoft have business models for Keyword Navigation (as opposed to search). it would seem reasonable that, as in the past, common sense would be served if this was an area in which they – and others – collaborated in the creation of a user friendly extension to the naming architecture of the internet.

A common internationalized keyword naming layer available through both companies interfaces would benefit users around the world. No proprietary [as in single] search solution could do as well in addressing this need.

Better still there is an obvious business model for such a layer – paid subscriptions. The long tail teaches us that there are billions of opportunities to sell such Keywords across the world’s nations and languages. The revenue would be many times greater than the amounts generated by the relatively small number of search keywords that generate meaningful levels of traffic.

Of course, such cooperation is unlikely. But you never know…….