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RealTime IT News

Net Names Deal Surprises Many Players

Rivals of Network Solutions were caught off guard by Wednesday's announcement that the company would provide millions in funding and marketing services to Centraal Corp., providers of RealName technology.

Network Solutions agreed to market, sell and service RealNames subscription orders directly. Network Solutions is also investing $4.2 million in Centraal, which gives it about at 20 percent stake. The deal also gives Network Solutions exclusive rights to offer the service through its various partner channels worldwide.

RealNames' service allows Web users to go directly to a Web site by simply typing in keywords in a several languages.

One company especially surprised by the deal was Netword.

On July 22, Netword sued Centraal, seeking unspecified damages. Netword alleges Centraal "implemented their system in a way that directly infringes on our patent claims."

In June, Netword was awarded a U.S. patent for its keyword registry of intuitive, memorable names that point to specific URLs, eliminating the need for Web surfers to remember a specific URL.

Netscape Communications Corp. has come under fire for its similar keyword technology known as Smart Browsing by organizations such as The Internet Electronic Frontier.

Web advocates fear that site navigation by keywords will greatly impact the DNS hierarchy, which is already controlled by the government-sanctioned NSI, and in the process of being turned over to the Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers. Critics fear its tie-up with Centraal will give NSI even more of a stranglehold over the domain system.

Shep Bostin, vice president of marketing for Maryland-based Netword said Thursday that though the NSI-Centraal pact was unexpected, the companies will benefit from their similarities.

"The deal is consistent with Centraal's business model which is to register companies for better placement in search engines. They have a different emphasis than us, as we advocate free usage geared towards consumers rather than companies. It's open registrations versus closed, proprietary registration."

Netword's keywords are free to users, who in essence rent their created keyword for free as long as a commercial entity does not use it. If a company contacts Netword and wants to use a keyword already in existence, they will be given the keyword and charged a fee of $5 per month. Centraal charges companies $100 to register a keyword.

In response to the ongoing lawsuit, Bostin said that he has heard rumors that the companies will come to a settlement in the near future, which he emphatically denied.

In November, Netword scored an alliance with Web portal GeoCities, allowing its members to go to sites using keywords. Bostin said there are two other deals in the works with other community-oriented sites which will be announced either by the end of the year or beginning of January.

Related Sites:

Centr aal, Network Solutions Seal Domain Pact

Netword Receives Patent for Internet Keyword System