Microsoft has invested in technology that will let Internet Explorer (IE) browser users locate websites using keywords rather than lengthy URLs.
The software giant has taken a 20 per cent equity stake in RealNames and will incorporate its keyword technology into version 3.0 and later releases of IE. It will also integrate RealNames' search facility into its MSN portal.
Kurt Wedel, RealNames' senior product marketing manager, claimed that the integration of the company's offering with IE will be key to Microsoft's bid to pitch MSN against America Online (AOL). AOL provides a similar service called AOL Keywords, but this is proprietary to the AOL network, he said.
RealNames' Internet Keywords technology enables customers to search for web pages based on categories. For example, if they type in "camcorders", they are taken to the web pages of those RealNames' customers that make such a product.
The facility is already supported by search and portal sites such as Altavista, Inktomi, Google, Go2Net and the GO Network. But Wedel said that, although Microsoft now owns 20 per cent of the private company, RealNames will continue to work with rival portals to MSN.
RealNames hit the headlines last month when it fell victim to an attack on its website, which put the credit card details of 15,000 of its customers at risk. Hackers successfully penetrated the company's firewall, gaining access to the area where its customer account details are kept.
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