Name System for Internet Shuts Down

Tuesday, May 14th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ RealNames Corp. is shutting its alternative naming system for the Internet after Microsoft Corp. decided to stop incorporating the system in its Internet Explorer browsers.

The decision means that users who had reached certain Web sites through shortcuts from RealNames would need to type in the full address or use a search engine. Users who had typed in Chinese or Japanese addresses may find their sites unreachable.

The shutdown takes effect June 30, when the current partnership between RealNames and Microsoft ends. RealNames laid off its 83 employees Friday, though some will serve as consultants during the transition.

Although the RealNames system was designed independent of any specific browser, it needed a major platform like the Microsoft browser to make it possible for users to recognize keywords.

Normally, to reach the Web site for Eastman Kodak Co., users would type in in the address field of their browsers. RealNames allowed users of Internet Explorer to reach the site simply by typing ``Kodak.''

Critics have questioned the proprietary nature of the RealNames system, which essentially runs on top of the Internet's existing domain name system built on open standards.

Plus, many browsers now incorporate search functions, so that typing ``Kodak'' into other browsers would also get Kodak's site. After RealNames shuts down, Microsoft will simply have those keywords go to a search engine as well.

The biggest impact may be on non-English users who had relied on RealNames to link foreign language keywords with Web addresses that use English characters understood by the Internet domain name system.

VeriSign Inc., which has been offering foreign names ending in ``.com,'' ``.net'' and ``.org,'' now must find another company to fill the void. VeriSign spokeswoman Cheryl Regan said the company was exploring its options.

RealNames and Microsoft disputed the reasons for the shutdown.

RealNames founder Keith Teare blamed it on Microsoft wanting more control over the searching process.

Microsoft spokesman Matt Pilla said the system created some user confusion _ someone typing ``San Francisco realtor'' got a site on loans, not a broker.