Internet Keywords: Enabling Everyday Words on the Everyday Web


Steve Ballmer(L), president and CEO of Microsoft, shakes hands with Keith Teare, CEO of RealNames Corporation, at PC Forum 2000, after announcing Microsoft's commitment to RealNames' Internet Keyword solution, which allows Web users to navigate using common words.
Photo by Jeff Christensen

REDMOND, Wash., Mar. 14, 2000 -- Microsoft today announced that it will integrate RealNames' Internet Keyword solution -- a common naming system that gives users direct and intuitive navigation using simple, everyday words -- into MSN Search and Internet Explorer. The company also announced that it is taking an equity stake of approximately 20 percent in RealNames. To find out what this announcement means for the two companies -- and how the Internet Keyword solution fits into Microsoft's Everyday Web vision -- PressPass spoke with RealNames CEO Keith Teare and Brad Chase, senior vice president of Microsoft's Consumer Division.

Press Pass: Why is Microsoft making such a strong commitment to the RealNames Internet Keyword solution?

Chase: RealNames has done a great job of solving one of the biggest frustrations people have with the Internet today, which is the complexity of finding the right Web site. Most sites have arcane domain names and URLs that either have very little to do with their content or are virtually impossible to remember. For instance, who would guess that the United Airlines home page is at www.ual.com, rather than united.com? Or that if you wanted information about Ford cars and trucks, you'd go to www.fordvehicles.com, instead of just ford.com? And even if you know the domain name, it's impossible to go directly to a specific page within a site -- if, for example, you want to get information about United's frequent flyer program, or a particular Ford vehicle. It's frustrating to consumers because it's not intuitive. And it's a problem for companies, because they'd like to seamlessly extend their trademarks and brand names into the online world. Microsoft is committed to the concept of the Everyday Web, and there's nothing more fundamental to that vision than the names we associate with everyday things. When we saw that the Internet Keyword system was expressly designed to address this problem, we decided to integrate it into MSN Search and Internet Explorer so people can use ordinary language to get the information they want on the Internet.

Press Pass: How will RealNames benefit from working with Microsoft?

Teare: We gain credibility and validation as well as tremendous distribution. Microsoft recognized that we have built the next generation of Internet navigation, and they've chosen to offer it to hundreds of millions of consumers worldwide because it delivers such great benefits. By being embedded in the Internet Explorer browser and integrated into MSN Search, our Internet Keyword system can be used by more people in a seamless and natural way.

Press Pass: Why are Internet Keywords important to consumers?

Teare: They're important because people think and communicate in ordinary language, not technical code words. We hear about companies and products and issues through television, radio, magazines and newspapers. And the things we hear about have recognizable names, like the "Frasier" television show. But when we go to the Internet to get more information about "Frasier," we're forced to use unrecognizable names that start with "http" or "www." Our Internet Keyword system uses a common naming system to bring together the world of television, radio and print media and the world of the Internet. It includes the brands and trademarks consumers are familiar with, so there's nothing extra to remember. You just type in "Frasier" or "United" or "Ford," and the browser goes right to it. Internet Keywords let people use the knowledge they already have to make their Internet navigation more efficient and rewarding.

Press Pass: How will the RealNames solution benefit consumers?

Teare: The solution saves time and reduces frustration because there's nothing new to learn and nothing hard to remember. Consumers just use what they already know. It makes the Internet more accessible to more people because it removes those assumptions of technical know-how that create barriers for ordinary people.

Chase: That's right. People can just type words in the Internet Explorer Address Bar or in MSN Search and find what they're looking for. If the match is definitive -- such as BMW or Ford -- the user will be taken directly to the corresponding Web page. If it's not -- such as Delta, which could be the airline or the faucet company -- the most relevant matches will be displayed and the user simply clicks on the right one. Plus, Internet Keywords let you navigate directly to a page deep within a Web site without requiring you to click through multiple links or remember long name extensions. So in Keith's "Frasier" example, you wouldn't have to start with the corporate entity, go to NBC's Web site, click on the "prime time" link, and so on. You'd go right to "Frasier." Internet Keywords makes navigation much faster and more intuitive for consumers.

Press Pass: What do Internet Keywords mean for the search engine industry?

Teare: I think it will push the industry toward more sophistication and more specialization, with search engines geared to the unique needs of various types of users. People will increasingly turn to search engines for the research functions they were designed for, rather than for straightforward navigation, which is what our service does. People may end up using search engines less often, but they'll get better results.

Chase: When you integrate the two worlds, as we do with Internet Explorer and MSN Search, you can create the optimal user experience. Users can get an exact, definitive search result or a list of options to choose from, depending on what they want and which tool they use.

Press Pass: Are Internet Keywords an open solution?

Chase: Yes, absolutely. Internet Keywords are based on open Internet standards and are supported across the entire Internet, so it's not a closed or proprietary solution. All search engines can provide the benefit of Internet Keywords to their own users.

Press Pass: How does this solution affect international consumers?

Teare: The solution has benefits for all consumers, but the benefits are especially huge for non-English-speaking users. Today's Internet URLs are limited to the 66 Roman characters -- what technical people call ASCII. Our Internet Keyword system can use any character in any written language, just like Windows 2000. So people can type their search word in Hebrew or Mandarin or Cyrillic or Kanji or whatever, and Internet Explorer will take them right to the Web page in their own language. (Or, they can go to the page in another language if they change the MSN defaults.) With Internet Keywords, people all over the world can navigate the entire Internet using their own languages to go directly to the site they want.

Chase: It will be much faster and easier for people to find the information they want on the Web, in a truly global way. Their familiar local brands and companies will be embedded into their browsers and MSN Search, and it will be fully intuitive no matter what language they speak.