A little bit of news. I have recently reacquired the RealNames domain name – 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, [.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:

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, 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…….

Google rips off RealNames idea!

Thanks for the pointer Dave.

The new Google toolbar clearly rips off the RealNames idea. I’m flattered. Shame they didn’t give credit, after all I am one of the inventors of this patent.

Maybe I’ll go and start a search engine grin


Microsoft’s own version of the RealNames idea is overwritten by the Google toolbar. With Microsoft’s version you always went to an MSN search results page from a Keyword entered into the address bar. With Google you often go right to the page – as you should. So at least Google has done it right.

MSN grows ad revenue by 40%

Yusuf Mehdi has been boasting on CNet about the revenue traction MSN has been getting of late. Full article here.

There are some key facts for those familiar with the RealNames story. Start with this quote from Mehdi:

“For the 2002 fiscal year, which ended June 30, MSN’s online ad revenue grew $40 million, he said. Between June 30 and Sept. 30, it jumped 40 percent.”

Well, RealNames was delivering 600 million Keyword resolutions a quarter in the January-March 2002 quarter. This was growing 20% per month. Divide that by 1000 and you get 600,000 cpm earning events. MSN apparently gets about $40 cpm from the multiplicity of revenue earning parts of its search pages.
600,000 time $40 is what, $24 million.

So – where is that revenue growth coming from? Since June all RealNames Keyword queries have become MSN search queries. 600-700 million more page views in the quarter. My guess is that this is responsible for almost all of the growth.

Interestingly the CNet authors spotted the obvious:

“Industry studies contradict Mehdi’s conclusions about the overall health of the online ad market. The Interactive Advertising Bureau and consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers found that online advertising sales dropped 20 percent during the first six months of the year compared with the same period in 2001.”

What they didn’t do is figure out what caused this apparent counter-cyclical trend.

You read it here first.

MSN 8 has Keywords!

Well, it’s been a while since Microsoft decided not to proceed with the RealNames Keyword product in the browser. Now …. 5 months later, MSN has announced that MSN 8 – the one with the $300m advertising campaign – will include Keywords. Suprise suprise!

Danny Sullivan – on his SearchEngineWatch site says the following:

“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.”

The full article is at

So, when will this “similar to AOL Keywords” technology become a paid for service? Who knows – but I’m willing to bet it will.

IE – more growth!

Kevin Werbach has commented on Microsoft’s IE market share.

I left the following comment:

“IE has become – defacto – a piece of infrastructure. It is no less a gateway to content and services than Windows is a gateway to applications.

In the world of web services – where binding the browser to a service will be a decision for Microsoft – the message should be “service-providers beware”.

As you know, I think that imposes on Microsoft a responsibility to act in a certain way. IMHO what happened to RealNames is the first of an inevitable series of examples of Microsoft leveraging the browser monopoly to resist innovation it does not benefit sufficiently from.

Take a look at what happens when you type Keywords in IE now – an MSN search result with paid for links. This is old technology that they own and monetize [search] being favored by Microsoft against a new innovation that they neither own nor 100% monetize [natural language navigation].

I know this is beating a drum that is virtually dead but there are big issues here.


1:41:37 PM

IE Growth

From CNet:

This is why Microsoft has to be responsible in its decisions regarding 3rd parties. IE is NOT just an application. It is, de-facto, a piece of infrastructure. Its power is such that a decision to partner or not has the power of life and death over a 3rd party. Where that 3rd party is solely responsible for significant innovation then innovation itself is destroyed.

In the world of web services the power of this application will create a universal gateway to services. The power to invoke a “travel service” or an “auction service” will be bound to IE. This gives Microsoft either a great opportunity to innovate and allow innovation OR a powerful anti-competitive edge.

Lets see which way it goes grin

IE Monopoly

This story on CNet echoes some of the points I have been making. Particularly this sentence:

“What we’re seeing with Web sites that are viewable only with IE is the privatization of the Web,” said Mozilla’s Baker. “And that’s a dangerous setting. We’re moving toward a world where all the capabilities of the Internet are reprocessed through a single filter, with Microsoft’s business plan behind it.”

Actually – I’m not opposed to Microsoft having a big market share. And if their browser is good, its cool for people to use it. What is a problem is that Microsoft have begun to show a willingness to kill innovation in order to maximize their own revenues from the browser. The pathetic replacement for RealNames is a great example of technology taking a step backwards to feed a legacy revenue stream. That’s the abuse of power that Microsoft is so often accused of. That threat to innovation is very real. Ask the Chinese, Japanese and Korean speakers who can no longer use their languages as web addresses.

By Paul Festa
Staff Writer, CNET
July 8, 2002, 4:00 AM PT

When he co-founded Netscape Communications in 1994, Jim Clark introduced a Web browser that promised computer users a way around the Microsoft juggernaut.

Now online photo print shop Shutterfly, another Clark-founded venture, has a succinct warning for visitors who come to the site using the latest versions of Netscape: Beware. Versions 6 and higher of the browser are “unsupported,” meaning people who use them cannot take advantage of several site features and may run into glitches not found with Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, according to a browser error message being published on the site as of last Wednesday.

Shutterfly’s browser preference page is more than ironic; it reflects an ongoing bias among some Web sites to write and test their pages for the browser most people use–Internet Explorer. The trend lives on despite the support Web standards receive from several new browsers, including Netscape’s latest, its open-source cousin Mozilla and others such as Opera and iCab.

[url=” target=_top>Click Here!

Non-agnostic Web sites “are saying, ‘We’re only interested in people if they use this browser,’” said Janet Daly, a representative for standards group the World Wide Web Consortium (<a href=" "That's a mistake on their part. The browser is a basic utility for people, and it's about having access to information regardless of who made that information or what authoring tool they used."

The call for Web authors to comply with standards comes as a new wave of competitors seeks to dislodge Microsoft from its perch as the No. 1 browser maker. IE is used by more than 85 percent of all Web surfers by many counts, and may go even higher. One recent study showed it with 95 percent share.

AOL Time Warner, which purchased Netscape in 1999 for some $4.2 billion, is throwing more support behind the company’s products after years of neglect. For the first time, the company is testing Netscape as the default browser in its CompuServe and America Online service software, having used IE for years as part of a complex cross-marketing agreement. AOL Time Warner has also filed a civil suit on behalf of Netscape that alleges Microsoft engaged in illegal practices.

Mozilla, meanwhile, recently released its first public version, Mozilla 1.0, capping four years of development. Other IE alternatives from companies such as Opera Software are also winning fans and giving Web surfers more choice than ever before.

Waiting on Web authors
While competition appears to be piling up, would-be IE rivals must overcome industry inertia that runs deep within the fabric of how Web pages are put together. Not least, they rely on the cooperation of skeptical Web authors who see little reward in supporting technology that is used by just a small fraction of their customers.

Shutterfly is hardly alone among mainstream Web sites discriminating against browsers., for example, warns visitors that “the site works best with the Internet Explorer Web browser. Other browsers, such as Netscape, may not function properly.”

Critics call these browser warning pages reminiscent of the bad old days of the Web, when sites routinely sported the tag “best viewed in Navigator” or “best viewed in IE.”

Microsoft in November revived those memories and earned widespread wrath when it locked out competing browsers from its MSNBC news site. The incident provoked accusations that Microsoft was taking advantage of its near-total dominance of the browser market to further marginalize competitors.

Microsoft declined to comment for this story.

The state of affairs with browser-site compatibility highlights a lingering gap between reality and the lofty goals of Web standards. Even as standards advocates acknowledge that the browsers are largely in compliance with W3C recommendations, plenty of sites remain, practically speaking, Internet Explorer-only zones.

Now that browsers are mostly standards-compliant, the roles of accused and accuser largely have been reversed.

A few years ago, it was Web developers who organized and ranted against the browser makers, specifically Microsoft and Netscape, demanding standards-compliant software. Now, the browser makers and even the Web’s premier standards organization are attributing many of the glitches to Web authors who write non-compliant code or tailor their code to work with market-leading browsers, specifically IE.

This phenomenon traps smaller browsers in a vicious circle: Because they have a limited following, Web authors don’t write or test for them. When, as a result, Web sites don’t work with the browser–or explicitly rule it out–surfers have a repeated incentive to give up and use Internet Explorer.

Beyond the basics
The person browsing with the latest Opera, Mozilla or Netscape browser will be able to access just about any site on the Web. But non-IE users are likely to start running into trouble once they start delving into a site’s complex features and functionality.

And those complex features tend to be crucial when it comes to executing transactions on e-commerce sites.

“The Web is a chaotic place, and you will find no browser that can view all sites,” said Hakon Lie, chief technology officer for Oslo, Norway-based Opera. “All browsers have this problem to some extent.”

Some browsers have it more than others. Opera, for example, runs into trouble on several mainstream Web sites, including and Apple Computer’s, that render perfectly in IE or Netscape.

Netscape has been taking an aggressive approach to the problem, monitoring sites where its “Gecko” rendering engine is running into trouble and prevailing on site administrators to fix the problem.

A joint Netscape-Mozilla team, formed two years ago, examined the 1,700 Web sites with the highest traffic to see how well they worked when viewed by Gecko. When the evangelism effort launched, only 60 percent of these pages worked properly, but Netscape claims to have boosted that number to 98 percent.

“Our evangelism efforts have garnished quite a bit of momentum in their outreach to Web developers,” a Netscape representative said in an e-mail interview. But the “team continues to work with both corporate and individual sites to ensure Gecko compliance.”

Opera’s Lie estimated that he ran into trouble surfing with Opera on about one in 30 sites.

He also claimed that IE has seen its share of sites that it can’t view properly. But because of IE’s ubiquity, those glitches are likely to be fixed in a matter of days or hours, while problems with Opera or Mozilla languish on bug fix to-do lists.

The situation is reflected in the policies at Shutterfly, which makes no bones about its market-oriented approach to browser support.

“From the beginning, the situation has been that we listen to our customers and deliver what they ask for,” said Whitney Brown, a representative for Shutterfly. “We have had very few requests for Opera–most of our users are on a PC using IE, and the next largest group is on a PC using Netscape. We have a pretty mainstream user base, which has moved away from the early adopters who may be aware of other browsers out there.”

The site’s browser preference page, which launched Wednesday during a visit using Netscape 6.2, notes that the company supports older versions of Netscape, including Netscape Navigator 4.7. Brown on Tuesday said the site’s browser warning is out of date and that the site supports newer versions of Netscape–although it still does not support Opera and other less popular browsers.

Other troubles
Standards proponents point to several stumbling blocks beyond Web authors, including nonstandard extras included as part of IE and widespread use of nonstandard automated authoring tools from companies such as Adobe Systems.

Even though all the major browsers are considered to be up to snuff on standards compliance, some Web authors still find it easier to code directly to IE–and test only with IE–rather than to open standards.

In many cases, that means using nonstandard extras that Microsoft offers., the open-source group that Netscape formed in 1998 to develop its browser, called those proprietary extras the legacy of Microsoft’s maneuvers to become the leader in the browser market.

“The market power of IE, gained through illegal use of Microsoft’s monopoly, means that Web developers find it convenient to use IE’s proprietary extensions,” said Mitchell Baker, who carries the whimsical title of chief lizard wrangler at “We do encourage Web developers to look to Web standards and to move away from proprietary extensions.”

Opera took a similar tack, laying blame at the feet of both Microsoft and Web developers.

“I’m not going to put all the blame on Microsoft, though they do deserve some,” Lie said. “The focus should really be on authors. They really need to test their pages. And maybe some of them have to adjust their ambitions slightly. If you try to do the very advanced, flashy stuff, you typically will get a page that will not operate with all browsers.”

Now that so many of the Web’s pages are coded by automated authoring tools, rather than by hand, much of the onus of standards-compliance has fallen to the vendors of authoring tools: Macromedia, Adobe and Microsoft.

The push to make authoring tools produce standards-compliant code runs up against the formidable obstacle that many Web surfers are using outdated, non-compliant browsers. If the authoring tool codes strictly to standards, it will lock out those legacy browsers.

Blame it on the browsers
And while Web authors may be more defensive than they used to be, some Web sites are still claiming that buggy browsers–even new ones–are preventing them from welcoming all comers.

“What we want to do is write once and have it work with everything,” said Russ Sanon, senior manager for quality-assurance engineering at Shutterfly. “But it falls onto the lap of the individual browser manufacturer. There’s nothing that we do that’s proprietary. Everything that we write should work with W3C-complaint specs.”

Some warn that while coding to IE may pay off in the short term, it could cost sites if the long-predicted shift to non-PC Web browsers transpires.

New W3C recommendations, particularly the HTML successor XHTML, are written to help Web authors accommodate the limited rendering capabilities of cell phones or PDAs (personal digital assistants). In many cases, this involves creating relatively automated ways of serving slimmed-down pages to small devices while showing full-featured pages in desktop browsers.

“If things are not built according to standards, you run the risk of having to do that content engineering all over again if you move to other devices,” said W3C’s Daly. “If you use a black-box proprietary format that doesn’t port over to a handheld, then what? That’s a strong business case for standards compliance.”

But others continue to sound a more community-minded alarm, calling the persistent gap between standards and practice a threat to the Web’s open character.

“What we’re seeing with Web sites that are viewable only with IE is the privatization of the Web,” said Mozilla’s Baker. “And that’s a dangerous setting. We’re moving toward a world where all the capabilities of the Internet are reprocessed through a single filter, with Microsoft’s business plan behind it.”

9:40:07 AM