Centraal announced at Internet World in Los Angeles this week that it will allow individual Internet users to register their names in the Realnames service for free.
The company?s founder and chief executive officer Keith Teare said Centraal wants to make its Realnames service ubiquitous on the Web by 2000.
Centraal launched its Realnames service at Internet World a year ago. The service aims to replaces Universal Resource Locators (URL) with a simpler naming system. For instance, by typing in ?Sony camcorder?, the user would immediately arrive at the appropriate page on the Sony Web site, without having to use a search engine.
?The URL allowed you for the first time to address a specific document on the network,? said Teare. ?It?s only problem was that it was unmemorable.?
To type a Realname straight into a browser?s URL window, users had to first download a 300Kbyte application from Centraal?s Web site. But at Internet World Teare revealed that the newly released Internet Explorer 5.0 browser has the Realnames feature preinstalled. The feature is disabled by default, however, and must be reactived by changing the browser?s settings.
Centraal currently charges companies $100 dollars to register a Realname. But individuals who have a free Home page at one of several partner sites ? including Geocities, Tripod and Xoom ? will be able to register a Realname for their site for free. This would allow any user with a Realnames enabled browser to type in the name "John Stewart" and immediately arrive at that person?s site.
Users can register their true name or a nickname, said Teare. However, Centraal said it would not accept the misuse of trademarks or the names of celebrities.
At the same time, Centraal is striving to close partnership deals with the major portals, providing links to the Realnames system. Altavista is already offering Realnames, but other portals have been less willing to partner with the company. Though Teare claimed Centraal does not compete with the search engines on the major portals, he admitted that some portals don?t see it that way.
He said: ?Realnames helps you get where you want to go, which is not what some portals want. They want you to stay [on their site for] as long as possible.?
Teare believes the key to making Realnames ubiquitous, is have all browsers support the feature. He said he had high hopes that Microsoft would soon enable Realnames support by default in Internet Explorer. He admitted that he faces a more daunting task in winning over Netscape though.
Netscape has developed its own equivalent of Realnames, called Smart Browsing. And its new parent America Online, has for many years provided so called Key Words that provide much the same function.
Teare claimed he had been close to a deal with Netscape until the company was acquired by AOL. ?We still believe it is possible that AOL and Netscape will embed Realnames in their browser,? Teare maintained.
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