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
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.
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
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
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.