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Sometimes, Microsoft is Right... 355

Posted by chrisd
from the headlines-you-never-thought-you'd-see-here dept.
We've run a number of stories about RealNames over the years. To our credit, Slashdot readers and editors have mostly thought that RealNames was a foolish and pointless money wasting exercise to create an alternate DNS system that is neither, well, alternative or compatible with the DNS protocols. But recently, due to some shrewd marketing on the Part of Keith Teare, the RealNames CEO, they've gotten undeserved sympathy by painting themselves as victims of Microsoft. It is my intention to cut this off before it goes any further, to engage in some review of RealNames business and why it was a good thing that they went out of business. If you are interested in reading my thoughts about this, read on...
A quick review: RealNames (then Centraal) first showed up on the Slashdot radar in 1998 when they inked a sales deal with Pre-verisign Network Solutions in which NSI would sell RealNames along with their other stable of internet "products." RealNames were very much pioneers in doing ethically troubling things for money on the Internet. Specifically, they were the first company to make a business model around manipulating search results for money. They also were trying to replace Network Solutions then-monopolistic control of domain names (a laudable goal) with a monopoly of their own (not so laudable), with their RealNames "augmenting" the DNS system in the Internet Explorer Browser and within search engines with which they had inked sales deals.

Now many many users of Slashdot have expressed their dislike for search services that order results based on cash, and many of us don't use IE, so the question comes up: why should we care about RealNames at all? Why does the failure of some poorly managed, ill-conceived company warrant any space on Slashdot? Alternative root servers make for a better story, no doubt. I'm the first to agree that RealNames deserves very little of your time, but the story of RealNames has recently taken a turn that is both annoying to me personally, and worrying to me as a long time participant in the open source scene.

Keith Teare, CEO of RealNames, has tried to make it seem like it was Microsoft's monopoly power that made RealNames go out of business. Lets review: RealNames had a deal with Microsoft to provide the RealNames service to MSN and Internet Explorer, for which they paid Microsoft a fee, and in return they got to derive revenue from selling the RealNames to companies, so basically Microsoft was likely RealNames' sole source of income. Keith and his coworkers were very happy to tie their horse to Microsoft while Microsoft was willing to pull them.

I don't need to explain to the Slashdot reader why RealNames was a poor idea. It is something you feel in your gut. I mean, in the end if you're going to accept the consensus reality that is the domain name system, are you going to stick with the somewhat broken NSI/ICANN/Pick-Your-Favorite-DNS company structure? Or are you going to go to a completly left field, poor, expensive excuse for NSI like RealNames? If you are a company trying to establish a web presence, do you choose the system that everyone has agreed on and publicize your url "http://www.bobstigerrentals.com" ? Or do you put: "RealName: Bob's Tiger Rentals" in your ads?

To illustrate further: Back in the day, I bought the linux.com domain name for the then-VA Research (Now VA Software) from Fred van Kempen (And there was much publicity, huzzah). Four or five months after doing this, I got a call from James Ash at RealNames trying to sell me the Linux RealName. This was not unusual, as I'd get any number of calls trying to sell me anything from containers full of stuffed penguins to whole companies (I was the wrong guy for those calls ...) What shocked me was the price he thought we'd pay. My mind remembers it as a horrible inverted Ron Popiel style sale, with none of the charm of Ron's products. How much would you pay to control the "Linux" RealName for four years? You'll be all over MSN and IE! $19.95? $29.95? $39.95? Try 1 million dollars.

It was a lot of money then, it's a lot of money now. It was a lot of money for any business. I told him we'd get back if we were interested. I didn't get back to him.

This is the innovation that Mr. Teare claims Microsoft squished, his right to overcharge for a dubious product. While Caveat Emptor certainly applied in the case of RealNames, his claim that Microsoft, somehow, has some duty to continue to provide the RealNames "service" to their browser client rings false. And that is the point of relating this bit of personal history.

I have little interest in engaging in schadenfreude over broken companies and laid off workers, but I do take issue with Keith Teare's attempt to jump on the anti-trust complainants bandwagon. If it is his hope that by crying foul on Microsoft now he can derive some sympathy or some other unknown gain, he'll have to look somewhere else than here on Slashdot, especially considering those that have a valid complaint against the software giant. Even considering recent developments I can't find any sympathy for him or his company, a company that, in my mind, belongs in the same class as LinuxONE (the California, not the Korean, company) and Digital Convergence.

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Sometimes, Microsoft is Right...

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  • Don't say that. Everytime you say that, somewhere an open-sourcer dies...
  • by sheldon (2322) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @11:35PM (#3563452)
    Hell must have just frozen over!

  • by Bogatyr (69476) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @11:39PM (#3563468) Homepage
    If he wanted to not have Microsoft control his coporate survival, he should have found someone else to be a customer. Depending on a single client as your sole revenue stream is a trap that has severely hurt at least one former employer of mine.
    • Mistake #1: Relying on a single customer
      Mistake #2: The single customer is Microsoft
      Mistake #3: Relying on the monopoly of M$ and IE
      Mistake #4: Creating an AOL-keyword knockoff and thinking it would somehow generate revenue
      Mistake #5: Failing to realize that the keyword concept would either die on its own or be emulated by others -- no profit either way!

      So RealNames is in the Internet cemetary -- buried next to the Cue Cats.
      • A CueCat makes a passable general purpose bar code reader with a little bit of work, and if you can't do that, at least you've still got a spiffy little flashlight. I can't see any such utility with RealNames.
  • by Da VinMan (7669) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @11:39PM (#3563470)
    I am sick to death of alarmist stories on /. that assume that the average /.er will believe in anything but Microsoft no matter what the story.

    Hopefully, this is a sea change for /. and it's front page stories. Stories that are about so-and-so feeling screwed and wronged by Microsoft aren't automatically worthy of our attention. To me, that why the story of RealNames on /. is worthy of mention; because of /., not RealNames.

    Thanks again....
    • How the hell is the parent offtopic? The story is about RealNames and the Slashdot reaction. So is the parent post.

      Go ahead, burn your mod points on me. I can take one for the team.

    • by _Sprocket_ (42527) on Wednesday May 22, 2002 @02:02AM (#3563951)


      To me, that why the story of RealNames on /. is worthy of mention; because of /., not RealNames.


      I'd offer a couple other reasons this story was worthy of attention.


      First, RealNames has shown up on Slashdot before. And as chrisd points out in this article, RealNames is a posterchild for dubias business strategies that involve shoving the Internet in to one's own private monopoly. It wouldn't be suprising that the ultimate failure of this company wouldn't show up as a followup on Slashdot.


      Secondly, the recent shenanigans has opened up dialog on a great subject: Microsoft isn't always in the wrong. If the CEO of RealNames had posted on Slashdot, he would have been labled a troll. Posters didn't fall for the bait. They noted RealNames was a Bad Idea and Microsoft, for once, wasn't doing anything worthy of ire. I saw the article subject not as "look what evil Microsoft has done now", but rather "look at who this guy is claiming as a scapegoat".


      Lets not get carried away. Microsoft does plenty to attract criticism. But to be fair - Microsoft should be criticized only when their actions ARE appropriate. Microsoft doesn't deserve to be roasted when some scam artist wants to jump on the Microsoft-illegal-behavior-awareness bandwagon.

  • by xRizen (319121) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @11:41PM (#3563479)
    RealNames wasn't exactly the best idea, I think we can all agree. But can anyone think of a system that is *seriously* better at everything DNS does than DNS? Even if someone could, who's to say that it would be adopted? IMO, DNS is far too entrenched to be pushed away at this point. Switching to another system would most likely be even more difficult than the switch to IPv6.

    Beyond RealNames and other DNS-alternatives, it seems like once every year or two, a bunch of tech geeks get up on an anti-ICANN fit. They go off and create an alternate NIC, but about a year later, it's been mostly abandoned. It seems to me that until a large portion of the geeks (preferably those who control some of the lower-tier DNS servers) really unite and get serious, we may be stuck with ICANN, as sad as that may seem.
    • by NutscrapeSucks (446616) on Wednesday May 22, 2002 @12:20AM (#3563651)
      Somebody else said it first, but DNS was not supposed to be a keyword system.

      But yet that's exactly how people have treated *.COM, and everytime we have a story about squatting or ICANN or CompanyReallySucks.com, slashdot gets up in arms and starts proposing reforms and reorgs and so on.

      So some company comes along and tries to make a keyword system apart from DNS, and what's Slashdot's reaction. Well, they suck too, the leeching bastards. I don't get it.

      Alternate NICs are not a solution the abuse of DNS -- they do nothing more than attempt to extend the misuse of the system.

      Keywords and Search are the solution, and RealNames was not a bad idea. Lets put the stupid squatting and trademark junk in their database instead of our DNS system. Let them worry about the problem of how to find "Something" on the internet without resorting to "Something.com".

      Having RealNames punted by MS is a good thing in this respect. Hopefully browser developers will come up with a system where you can plug in as many Keyword Systems as you'd like (just like you can with search engines). I wouldn't mind an automatic Google Are You Feeling Lucky? feature in my address bar.
      • I wouldn't mind an automatic Google Are You Feeling Lucky? feature in my address bar.


        In mozilla, make a new bookmark of the following URL:

        http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=%s&btnI=I'm +F eeling+Lucky

        ...and assign it a keyword of "lucky" (or similar). Now you can type in "lucky foobar" and be automatically directed to the FooBar Consulting [foobar.com] web page.
        • http://translate.google.com/translate?u=%s
          http:/ /www.google.com/search?q=cache:%s
          http://groups.g oogle.com/groups?q=%s
          http://www.google.com/searc h?q=%s

          I have them as the following keywords: ggt, ggc, ggg and gg.

          (You can also do a similar thing in IE.)
        • Or, you could put this in user.js and then whenever mozilla doesn't recognize what you put into the location bar as a URL, it dumps the string to google's I'm feeling lucky feature. Less typing involved for most searches, as you don't have to type the keyword anymore.

          user_pref("keyword.URL", "http://www.google.com/search?btnI=I%27m+Feeling+L ucky
      • Then perhaps you should visit http://toolbar.google.com/ [google.com]. It's a toolbar for IE that lets you search direct from the tool bar, and also has other features, such has showing the rank of the page you're currently visiting (although Google warns that has privacy concerns), search (via google) the site you're currently visiting, submit your search to the image or usenet search, or highlight your search terms (this is my favorite feature, because it doesn't even rely on your current page being originated from Google). I kinda wish there was a version for Mozilla and Konqueror. A few of the features come in very handy (keyword highlighting, in particular).
      • by PhReaKyDMoNKeY (522192) <jbacon@@@lclark...edu> on Wednesday May 22, 2002 @07:55AM (#3564544)
        chrisd: If you are a company trying to establish a web presence, do you choose the system that everyone has agreed on and publicize your url "http://www.bobstigerrentals.com" ? Or do you put: "RealName: Bob's Tiger Rentals" in your ads?

        I know I've seen plenty of ads with "AOL keyword: so-and-so" on TV, in magazines, and elsewhere. It seems to work for them okay.

        NutscrapeSucks: Somebody else said it first, but DNS was not supposed to be a keyword system.

        North America was supposed to be an extension of the United Kingdom. Slashdot was supposed to be a forum for rational discussion. We all know how that turned out. People adapt things to their own purposes.

        Keywords and Search are the solution, and RealNames was not a bad idea. Lets put the stupid squatting and trademark junk in their database instead of our DNS system. Let them worry about the problem of how to find "Something" on the internet without resorting to "Something.com"

        The current system isn't going anywhere anytime soon, like it or not. It's become too ingrained. Besides, keywords would have all the same problems. Eventually they'd all point you to porn. You were right about one thing, though. Search is a solution. With search engines (most notably, Google) actively updating and trying to help increase the relevance of your search results, as well as filtering the bulk of the junk, we are able to navigate the insanity of the internet quite a bit more efficiently. Hopefully they can remain on top of web spammers' techniques for a long time and save us all a lot of grief.
      • Keywords and Search are the solution, and RealNames was not a bad idea. Where it became a _terrible_ idea was when they set a high price for listings. (Can anyone confirm that $1M? I don't want to call Chrisd a liar, but I can't imagine even the largest corporations paying that much until they had definite evidence that a RealNames listing would bring in lots of business. Which it wouldn't when, because listings cost too much, too few companies were listed too make it worth your time to do a RealNames search...)

        If they'd charged $10 the first year, it might have been successful, although unprofitable unless they had exceptional management. And once the database was big enough to get consumers actually using it, then they could have proven it's value and jacked up the renewal price...
    • You don't have to replace DNS to build something better than works on it.


      The answer is to break up ICANN [templetons.com] and allow a lot of competing systems on a level playing field.

  • Yes, but... (Score:4, Funny)

    by NoMoreNicksLeft (516230) <john...oyler@@@comcast...net> on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @11:42PM (#3563480) Journal
    This is the statistical anomaly that will never happen again. M$ used their one "get to be right for free" card on knocking down realnames, so it's safe to assume they'll *never* *ever* be right again.

    Satisfying, in a way.
    • This is the statistical anomaly that will never happen again. M$ used their one "get to be right for free" card on knocking down realnames, so it's safe to assume they'll *never* *ever* be right again.

      If you knew how to play "Monopoly," you'd know that a "Get out of jail free" card goes right back into the draw pile as soon as it's spent.
    • On the contrary, they don't need to rely on that card at all. They can just buy rightness with some of that $40 billion they have on hand.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @11:42PM (#3563482)
    Seriously, someone who can plant a story like this must be able to see them, right?
  • by nicholas. (98928) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @11:43PM (#3563486)
    As much as we English loving types had no use for real names, it was a viable way for Asian countries to use their own characters for DNS entries. It had a chance of being a standard. Granted, a skewed results go to the hightest bidders standard, but it was probably better than entering and IP everytime you wanted to visit a site.
  • I guess you wouldn't mind if I got the rights to the Linux RealName then, eh?

    ;)
  • by al_d (472085)
    I remember reading about the 'success story' of RealNames soon after it had started; how this entrepreneur was 'revolutionising' the internet. What a leap backword, to go from heirachical domain names, to the equivalent of the AOL Keyword (nowadays they would have patented it of course...).

    It seemed like such a bad idea from the start; a similar effect easily achievable (although not necessarily of any use) in the browser itself, like that thoroughly annoying MSN Search junk that appears if you misspell a URL in Internet Explorer (Obviously both this and opennic are slightly different to RealNames, but I still don't feel that RealNames was any more useful).

    • by lewp (95638)
      You can turn that searching junk off by selecting "Do not search from address bar" in IE's advanced options.

      I was very happy when I found that option.
  • Why RealNames failed:

    1) "Necessity is the mother of invention" - nobody NEEDED a little shortcut for their domain names.

    2) Hardly anyone KNEW about the RealNames thing. The ones who knew were the most tech savvy, and they could probably have just made an aliases file to have "linux" go to linux.com or something....

    3) it wasn't widely-spread. only a handful of keywords worked.

    4) costed WAY TOO MUCH!

  • by zaius (147422) <jeff.zaius@dyndns@org> on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @11:52PM (#3563536)
    10. Natalie Portman tops worlds ugliest people list.

    9. Beowulf clusters aren't so useful after all

    8. IIS beats Apache in recent security audits

    7. JonKatz reviews _______ in less than 1000 words

    6. [Lucent | IBM | Intel] [invents | patents] [single molecule | [carbon | other element] nanotube | really small] [transistor | hard drive | computer] (wait... maybe we have seen that one before...)

    5. CowboyNeal read this (marry me)!

    4. 133t k1dd13z h4x0r3d /.

    3. BeOS returns, outperforms Linux

    2. Sometimes, Microsoft is right...

    1. Bill Gates buys U.S. Supreme court, clears M$ of all charges.

    • On any other article, this would be modded as Troll, but oh so funny and true here.

      > 1. Bill Gates buys U.S. Supreme court, clears M$ of all charges.

      Not so unvelievable. Add a teaspoon of Slashdot drama with a dash of overreaction and sprinkle with a story about Microsoft using campaign contributions and you've got your headline!
    • > 1. Bill Gates buys U.S. Supreme court, clears M$ of all charges.

      no, no, i can see that one on /. well, very briefly before gates had osdn's web farm confiscated due to an ms license audit.
    • Even the most dedicated RMS follower knows that Microsoft is sometimes on the right side. Has everyone already forgotten the Apple/MS "look and feel" crap? Has else everyone lost their "Keep your lawyers off my computer" button like I did?

      (Oh, but they're still evil and they suck. There. :-)

  • by Seth Finkelstein (90154) on Wednesday May 22, 2002 @12:00AM (#3563573) Homepage Journal
    In one line, RealName's business model was to leverage Microsoft's desktop monopoly, into being a DNS monopoly. To be melodramatic, the problem is that when you act as a henchman for someone who is trying to Rule The World, never forget that the would-be world-ruler has no loyalty to you. Only to how you fit into the world-ruling strategy. It's a complicated and difficult task to attempt to Rule The World. When strategies change, the specialists recruited to implement the former strategies, will be gone. And so came to pass with RealNames.

    They attempted to live by the Microsoft monopoly-sword, and now they die by the Microsoft monopoly-sword.

    This is not, though, Microsoft necessarily being "right", so much as having failed in one Rule The World gambit, and rationally, cut its losses. That's not the same thing at all.

    Sig: What Happened To The Censorware Project (censorware.org) [sethf.com]

  • by os2fan (254461) on Wednesday May 22, 2002 @12:02AM (#3563583) Homepage
    If the Register is anything to go by. the closure of Realnames is hurting people who rely on it to surf the net in their own languages (eg Japan, China). But the post is relatively silent on this matter.

    I mean, Google is a good idea in the west, but in the east, it's still an english-language tool. And it's not just google: realnames was using the address line, so that {asian glyphs} were substutuded with {european letters}.

    • www.google.co.jp (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Tottori (572766) on Wednesday May 22, 2002 @04:35AM (#3564259)
      I use it regularly.

      In fact, even www.google.com will automatically select the Japanese language if you're browsing from Japan (not sure if they're going off browser settings, IP address, or DNS).

      All this talk about how the DNS desperately needs to be internationalised overlooks one vital fact: the DNS intentionally uses a limited character set. a-z, 0-9 and -, that's it. This allows hostnames to be used in all kinds of useful places without quoting (like URLs!). And it means they have a single, unambiguous, canonical representation.

      If I can register ".com", shouldn't someone else be able to register "/.org"? How about "slashdot.org"? If not, why not?

      DNS names are mnemonics, not keywords. Their purpose is to be easy to remember, not to provide a human-language description of the domain. If you want to search for something, please use a search engine. That's what they're there for. Any reasonable browser will let you search from the URL bar.

  • by guttentag (313541) on Wednesday May 22, 2002 @12:06AM (#3563604) Journal
    I don't need to explain to the Slashdot reader why RealNames was a poor idea. It is something you feel in your gut.

    To our credit, Slashdot readers and editors have mostly thought that RealNames was a foolish and pointless money wasting exercise...

    This is the journalistic equivalent of beginning your presentation with the phrase, "if you don't agree with me, you're a moron."

    Even lazy reporters aren't rarely so brazen. They try to make up for their lack of research/interest by inserting the word "clearly" at the beginning of a sentence. They think it absolves them of their responsibility to inform -- I call it "intellectual bullying."

    I'm not picking on your writing or trolling about your opinion. I happen to agree with your assessment of RealNames, but if you can't present your argument without the bullying your argument doesn't deserve a forum. Slashdot editors, please consider this before accepting/writing features.

    • It's like Bush when he started a sentance (at a speech talking to a school...):
      "Someone asked me the other day, I mean I'm asked often about how we... It's an old political speech trick... I'm asked often about how we as citizens can stop terrorism..."


      Seems that chrisd and G.W. learned their writing styles at the same place... a speed dating course (using subliminal suggestive phrases).

      Other than what the parent pointed out the RealNames idea was "cool" but useless.
    • I didn't perceive that as bullying, I can see how one might though. I was trying to get across that my read on slashdotters reaction to realnames in previous /. stories on the company.

      It wasn't my intention to sound bullying though.

      Chris

  • west coast (Score:4, Funny)

    by Satai (111172) on Wednesday May 22, 2002 @12:11AM (#3563619)
    Sometimes, Microsoft is Right...

    Uh, Chris, did you forget again that the west coast viewers haven't seen the show yet?

    Mulder: Dana, the cigarette smoking man told me something... Something important.
    Scully: Fox, what is it?
    Mulder: Microsoft was right.

  • by rusty0101 (565565)
    While I am no fan of Microsoft, and never really considered "RealNames" a viable business, I think that RealNames jumping onto the anti-Microsoft bandwagon is about as sensible as if Borland were to have done the same thing.

    My problem with the RealNames model is that there are litterally dozens of instances of some names. In the work that I do, the Acronym ATM has two distinct meanings. In the past five years I have run into two instances where SME did not stand for Subject Matter Expert.

    Kraft has one meaning at the moment, however Craft has two distinct meanings (ability to shape things, and vehicle).

    My own website's name can have two different meanings, and I am moving from one to another.

    My feeling is that "RealNames" was in the auction dns buisness. They would sell "names" to the highest bidder, and the price could go up every time the name came up for renewal.

    If that is a "viable" buisness model that they presented to their ventur capitalists, I can see why the money dried up. The VCs would wise up once they figured out the problem with the model.

    To blame this on Microsoft is inviting the wrath of your customers. You were attempting to hold a proverbial gun to their heads.

    This does not make Microsoft "right" any more than the village drunk blaming the village idiot for the village drunk's drinking, absolves the village idiot of any idiocy.

    -Rusty
  • I'm the uber anti-Microsoft guy and even I agree. RealNames just had a retarded idea and it naturally did what all companies based on bad logic eventually do - go under. Microsoft's investment in the company was stupid but had nothing to do with their failure.

  • Missing the point (Score:5, Interesting)

    by kteare (416210) on Wednesday May 22, 2002 @12:15AM (#3563634)
    Chris you are missing the point. Any reading of my WebLog at teare.com [teare.com] must lead you to the conclusion that the inability of DNS to support multi-lingual characters requires fixing, and that right now ONLY RealNames fixes this natively in the browser that is on 90% + desktops. Microsoft are now about to hard code the browser to Microsoft's OWN middleware - the MSN Search Engine. If you type "IBM Thinkpad" into the browser you will get an MSN Search result. Even if you do not like RealNames (its a free world) you have to acknowledge that ending up on the ThinkPad page at ibm.com is the right outcome. How you can support Microsoft tying the browser to exclusively Microsoft controlled middleware - and by so doing disable every language except English (7 bit ASCII actually) is baffling to me. Incidentally the business model you describe was abandoned many years ago. Keywords were $50 per year flat fee or $500 if it was a top brand with high traffic. Keith Teare Former CEO RealNames Corporation
    • by Darby (84953) on Wednesday May 22, 2002 @01:13AM (#3563795)
      Even if you do not like RealNames (its a free world) you have to acknowledge that ending up on the ThinkPad page at ibm.com is the right outcome.

      What if you are looking to buy a used laptop?
      What if you want information about getting Plan9 running on your thinkpad?
      What if you want something *besides* the highest bidder.

      The same holds true regardless of the language.

      Your business was idiotic and helped nobody but you.

      Remember on your blog where you said:
      I hope I can make sure other entreprenuers learn the lesson of this before they repeat my mistake.


      You didn't learn from the mistakes of all of the others who the same exact thing happened to.
      Had you done the most cursory investigation of Microsoft you would have known this would happen.

      When you said this though I had to laugh:
      I have a lot of respect for Microsoft in general and a good company doesn't allow things like this to go unpunished or uncorrected.


      This is their SOP. If you respect that, then you are a fool.

    • Try a new method! (Score:3, Interesting)

      by E-Rock (84950)
      Write a browser plugin. Now you no longer need MS and if you're crafty you can write something that works in Netscape, Opera, etc.

      I bet if you wanted you could tell people how to build a custom search in the QuickSearch.exe that's part of the IE powertools! I built a custom search so 'gg term' searches google and 'dict word' brings up the dictionary.com page. Wouldn't be hard to build a 'RN whatever' to go to your site and redirect. All this from the address bar.

      Stop whining that the powers that be destroyed your horrible business model (all eggs one basket) and be creative and do something else.
      • "I built a custom search so 'gg term' searches google and 'dict word' brings up the dictionary.com page."

        OMFG, please share! I've been wanting to do something like that for a loooooong time. I do both of those things quite often, and to be able to bypass the homepage (though at least Google's is nicely minimalist) would be very sweet.

        If you could post any info I'd be very grateful, even if it's just pointers to where to look for info. I will go look for myself now, but I anticipate that others would love to have this as well.

        • Re:Try a new method! (Score:3, Informative)

          by ParisTG (106686)
          Konqueror on KDE does exactly this. Its a really useful feature, and included by default. No custom plugin writing required :).
          • so does Opera (Score:3, Informative)

            by Trepidity (597)
            On Linux and Windows at least. "g blah" searching google for blah, and there's a bunch of others.

            Mozilla also allows you to type something into the URL bar and then hit the down arrow key to go to "search [configurable search engine] for [what you typed" in the URL auto-completion drop-down box.
    • by _Sprocket_ (42527) on Wednesday May 22, 2002 @05:00AM (#3564316)
      Keith, your belief in your former company is commendable in its own way - we should all believe in what we do. But in re-stating your points here, it seems like you're missing the point yourself. Let's go over your points and hazard a guess why they're not gleefully received:


      Any reading of my WebLog at teare.com [teare.com] must lead you to the conclusion that the inability of DNS to support multi-lingual characters requires fixing, and that right now ONLY RealNames fixes this natively in the browser that is on 90% + desktops.


      I am not familiar with this issue, but according to some of the posts under this article (and some excellent provided links) the issue is in work, and in fact some of the solutions are being implemented. Your solution may have provided a nice stop-gap now... but ultimately it was a monopoly in competition with the existing system. The entire Registrar game has been quickly moving away from single monopolies - with good reason. I'm affraid you're stuck in the past.


      If you type "IBM Thinkpad" into the browser you will get an MSN Search result. Even if you do not like RealNames (its a free world) you have to acknowledge that ending up on the ThinkPad page at ibm.com is the right outcome.


      That's a pretty easy call. But what if I type in the word "peppermint"? Should it go to peppermint.com (Peppermint Productions)? How about www.peppermints.com (Penguin Mints)? Or maybe www.altoids.com (Altoids)? Suddenly its not so obvious. Unless, of course, your company refused to sell a generic keyword. But c'mon... we both know it went to the first/highest bidder. And frankly, that makes your point pretty moot.


      How you can support Microsoft tying the browser to exclusively Microsoft controlled middleware - and by so doing disable every language except English (7 bit ASCII actually) is baffling to me.


      Look around. There's been grumbling about this practice (even replacing 404's with a MS search result). But it seems that replacing one monopoly with another is little to get excited about. The entire practice stinks. RealNames was just an interchangable part of the problem.


      You're a business guy. Your baby was slaughtered. A lamb that was shocked when the pack it ran with decided to stop for lunch. But if you think you can gain support in this forum by simply pointing your finger at Microsoft, you've gravely misunderstood Slashdot's collective culture. And you've missed the real root of the complaints against Microsoft.

    • by perky (106880)
      "We're condemning the court's decision as well as the government's prosecution. We're 3 years old, and Microsoft was prepared to give us the trust of owning a core part of the browser. That doesn't seem the behavior of a monopolist."

      - KEITH TEARE, CEO Realnames (20% Microsoft Investment), June 2000


      "Microsoft seems to be playing the role of the referee who decides whether any innovations succeed"

      - KEITH TEARE, ex-CEO Realnames, after MS cancel contract.

      Like lambs to the slaughter. You guys really didn't think that MS would let you build a viable business off their backs did you? Surely you understood that if that kind of ervice ever became successful they would tear it out from under you, and perfectly within their right as well. There's no law against not renewing a contract, as I am sure you found out when your customers deserted you.


      Now onto the crucial point in all this: the internet has been designed to be an open system. All of the protocols that enable the core functionality are available for perusal by anyone. Consequently anyone can make software that works with these protocols. What you were trying to do was provide a new service (good), but build a monopoly out of it so that a few years down the line anyone who was getting a significant portion of their site traffic from RN would be forced to keep stumping up the no doubt increasing annual charges. Presumably you would charge other browser makers for the privilige of using this service too. This is bad.


      And now you are making sour grapes about non-ascii character support. I assume that you are focusing on this because you have some support in asia whereas in the west you have none. Now on the basis of the open principles mentioned above, how do you think extended character addressing should be handled?

      a) Open DNS-like system extended to support Unicode, and administered much like the current ststem.

      b) Proprietary directory system that is closed, tied to one provider and which only works on one browser, and is dependent on the good will of the browser manufacturer (don't you owe them $25 Mil?).


      I don't think I need to go on.

  • by kyras (472503) on Wednesday May 22, 2002 @12:15AM (#3563636) Homepage
    Keith and his coworkers were very happy to tie their horse to Microsoft while Microsoft was willing to pull them.

    Perhaps their first mistake was tying their horse to something in the hopes that it would get pulled...
  • by rveno1 (470619) on Wednesday May 22, 2002 @12:15AM (#3563637)
    Ok So RealNames picked an idea that was somewhat obvious. They are allowed to do that (Its a free market).
    What everyone is missing is WHAT IF MICROSOFT STARTS DOING THE SAME THING IN HOUSE?. Than what will we say?.

    I see this becoming an issue when someone will be typing " web browser" in the adress bar and Microsoft redirecting them to IE (or pick your own example where microsoft decides where you will end up)
    Remember That ALL Default settings in Microsoft's Browser points to thier own in jouse web sites. )and to change that setting you have to be a little tech savvy.
    • But is this really going to happen anyway? People are trained to use standard addresses. If it doesn't end in ".com" people are very confused. No one is going to just type "Web Browser" in to their addresss bar. They'll type "www.webbrowser.com" because that's what they've been trained to do by being saturated with web addresses for the past 5 years or so.

      Even if Microsoft implements this, I don't think anyone will use it.
    • I see this becoming an issue when someone will be typing " web browser" in the adress bar and Microsoft redirecting them to IE (or pick your own example where microsoft decides where you will end up)

      You know what's funny? Typing "web browser" in the address bar DOES bring you to a Internet Explorer download page.
    • Remember That ALL Default settings in Microsoft's Browser points to thier own in jouse web sites. )and to change that setting you have to be a little tech savvy.

      Its scary the amount of people I have talked to that didnt know you could change your homepage. Worse then that some people have asked me if its legal to change it!

      Not to mention one law undergraduate student that thought it was a legal requirement to register your software, and have no problems with the DMCA, CDBTPA (or whateer the sssca is), except after many days of discussion before finally finding an analogy that she could understand.
    • Remember That ALL Default settings in Microsoft's Browser points to thier own in jouse web sites

      Who uses the MS search? Only newbies and those who want to find the highest paying advertiser use it.
  • by Seth Finkelstein (90154) on Wednesday May 22, 2002 @12:15AM (#3563639) Homepage Journal
    By the way, Keith Teare's story has moved off his site's front page [teare.com], which is the link given in the Slashdot link above in the story RealNames CEO Talks Back [slashdot.org]

    It's now an unobvious deep-link into the archives [teare.com]

    Also available elsewhere [userland.com]

    Sig: What Happened To The Censorware Project (censorware.org) [sethf.com]

  • How exactly are these real names supposed to be used?

    Does ANYBODY actualy have one?

    I use IE every day, have for 3 or so years now, err;

    They are integrated into IE? Really? Heh.

    Could've fooled me. . . .
  • poetic justice (Score:5, Insightful)

    by g4dget (579145) on Wednesday May 22, 2002 @12:23AM (#3563664)
    The CEO of RealNames is experiencing just what people have been complaining about in the anti-trust lawsuit: because of Microsoft's monopoly, Microsoft gets to pick the winners and loser in the market. As long as Microsoft picked RealNames as a winner, this was really swell for them. Teare even went so far as to publically say that Microsoft was not a monopoly and that there were no problems with competition. Now that Microsoft has made them losers, he is whining about it.

    This should be a warning to any company that bets their business on being Microsoft's favorites rather than on innovating and competing independently. The lesson is actually quite independent of Microsoft: it is a fundamental mistake to build your business on a relationship with a single corporate partner. It just happens to be the case that in the software space, in some areas, there is no other partner around besides Microsoft.

  • Unfortunately, this leaves Asian character set as URLs out in the cold. The Register [theregus.com] talks about how RealNames allowed for Internationalized Domain Names, something not currently supported otherwise. The "Internet Engineering Task Force group working on a technical standard for addressing non-ASCII IDNs in the DNS" is doing just that, working. Its not set yet. So don't just slam RealNames for the ASCII keywords.
  • Makes sense (Score:3, Funny)

    by quantaman (517394) on Wednesday May 22, 2002 @12:49AM (#3563740)
    Microsoft finally being right about something is such a big story /. has a whole feature on it!!
  • by guttentag (313541) on Wednesday May 22, 2002 @12:53AM (#3563746) Journal
    Sometimes, Microsoft is Right...
    I'm sure Microsoft is right sometimes, but I'm not convinced that this is one of those times. Whenever Microsoft does something apparently benevolent, I sit back and ask myself: "What do they have to gain by doing this?" A huge corporation with shareholders to please and a pocket full of powerful monopolies doesn't do anything that's not in its interest.

    Remember Smart Tags [slashdot.org]? They were designed to give Microsoft the influence and revenue stream RealNames's technology had... but on a broader level. RealNames was confined to the location bar, while Smart Tags could modify the contents of a Web page. Microsoft has a history of getting close to companies that have a hot new idea just long to figure out what makes it tick . Then it incorporates the idea into its products and either acquires the partner (Vermeer, VXtreme, etc.) or drops it like a rock (Novell).

    I believe Microsoft dropped RealNames because they sucked all the intellectual lifeblood it could from the company, not because it thought RealNames was a bad idea. Microsoft shelved (turned off) the Smart Tags feature under heavy criticism, but made a point of stating the feature may be released in a future version of IE.

    • I believe Microsoft dropped RealNames because they sucked all the intellectual lifeblood it could from the company, not because it thought RealNames was a bad idea
      How much "intellectual lifeblood" is there in a bad business plan? The logic behind the RealName idea is just counterintuitive to the standards that engineers and people have tried to establish in this industry.
  • Freudian slip? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by British (51765) <british1500@gmail.com> on Wednesday May 22, 2002 @01:06AM (#3563776) Homepage Journal
    , and many of us don't use IE

    You said that in reference to Slashdot users. Perhaps you were meaning to say that in reference to Linux users? I find it hard to believe most Slashdotters, no matter how big of linux zealots they are, are using Mozilla or Opera. Many of us surf at work, and our only choice is IE.
    • Actually, I meant that things that affect IE users generally aren't so important to /. readers, or at least we don't think that things that affect ie users is what you come to /. to read about. Not so much zealotry than relevance.

      I'm well aware that many companies simply mandate IE/XP/Whatever and I sympathize, I don't see it as a "all ie users are curdled" thing, that's too simplistic a view of the world.

      chris

  • Sometimes, Microsoft is Right... (Score:-1, Flamebait)
  • by carlfish (7229) <cmiller@pastiche.org> on Wednesday May 22, 2002 @01:38AM (#3563878) Homepage Journal

    If RealNames was as useful outside the USA as its founder suggests, then the company would not have gone under as soon as Microsoft ended the deal.

    If there was consumer demand for their services, RealNames could survive by distributing a browser plugin that hooks into the RealNames naming service. Something like the Google Toolbar would have worked perfectly. Those people who are apparently now sitting around crying because RealNames has gone out of business would instead be rushing to download the new plugin and it'd be business as usual.

    But RealNames business plan wasn't based on being a useful service, it was based on being a part of Internet Explorer. Any business that bases its entire business model on a single contract with a single company is doomed. Any business that bases its entire business model on a contract with a company as well-known for looking out for number one as Microsoft is doubly doomed.

    Charles Miller

  • Man, a million bucks for the "Linux" RealName?

    I got "Ima Lamer" for free by signing up for a free Homestead web page. Problem was Homestead went out of business first.

    Dear Subscriber,

    Congratulations!
    We've approved your subscription for the following Internet Keyword(s):

    Ima Lamer

    Now, anyone using your Internet Keyword can navigate directly to your most
    important Web pages, from prominent Internet Keyword links on several major
    sites.

    <sniped>

    Internet Keywords are your most valuable Web marketing tool!
    ===
    By using Internet Keywords to promote your site in all of your marketing materials, you'll be helping your customers find you -- fast! Communicate and advertise your Internet Keyword just like you would your Web address.

    As an added service to you, RealNames provides traffic statistics of when and from where your customers come to your site using Internet Keywords. We encourage you to look at your statistics often. (Internet Keyword: RealNames
    Login; URL: <sniped>. In English.)


    The problem was, at that time not everyone used Internet Explorer® in Windows® even.
  • My perspective on this is slightly different. The number of companies that have had successful, long-term partnerships with Microsoft is surprisingly small. IMHO, this is because M$ is now big enough that they don't need to afford any risk --- if a partner making a good enough profit on M$, then likely it could make money for a competitor. So they either re-create the technology in-house and attempt to kill the former partner, or they buy the partner. Either way, they control the technology.

    RealNames just happened to fall in the category of "easier to build then buy." Which goes to show you, if you're gonna play at a table with M$, you'd better bring something they can't make themselves.

  • by theolein (316044) on Wednesday May 22, 2002 @04:04AM (#3564199) Journal
    If RealNames had instead tried to get on the ICANN bandwagon and had this done as a standard extension to the DNS system on the server side of the equation, they might still be around. Their options would have been much much bigger. They could have patented the system or just GPL'ed it and they would still have companies doing business with them. Their problem was greed, greed and more greed.
  • by forgoil (104808) on Wednesday May 22, 2002 @06:27AM (#3564422) Homepage
    Hate M$ all you want, but all these anti-trust crap is bad for the business as a whole, it states "if someone is big, we can cash in by suing them for whatever comes along".

    It should be the business of the goverment to deal with bad business practises, not a personal vendetta powered by other companies (splitting up windows is just a bad deal for the consumers, imagine paying for all the parts of your car and then assemble it yourself...), especially not via states.

    It's a market economy, make products that won't sell and you loose, just like this "alternative" DNS scam (isn't AOL doing the exact some crap?). Give companies a good chance to succeed with good products instead of pointing fingers like kids in a sandbox.
  • by Vodak (119225)
    Damn some people are pity whores. I'm just sick of all these people who screw up thier business ventures crying about his or that andblamingother people. Is it Microsoft's fault?? I don't know I don't care. I just wish he people in charge of RealNames would just asccept they failed.
  • I just want to know where I can find this "Bob's Tiger Rentals" place. I can think of a few times it would have been nice to be able to just go rent a tiger for a day (during those extremely annoying tech support days perhaps?)

  • by nagora (177841) on Wednesday May 22, 2002 @07:35AM (#3564517)
    There is a lot of talk about how RealNames were actually providing a useful service in countries with non-latin character sets as the DNS does not support them.

    How true is this and does anyone have an alternative solution that has any chance of catching on?

    TWW

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