"Something bigger is in the works," said Teare, explaining why Centraal had not ballyhooed the news on inclusion in Microsoft's browser. Teare indicated Centraal is hoping to get Microsoft and Netscape to make Centraal's technology the default in their browsers rather than just an option.
Teare said Microsoft is conducting pilot tests with 16 of its Internet properties. A Microsoft spokesman could not be reached for comment today.
"The ambition is to have RealNames in a ubiquitous environment, which would take it beyond being one of the options in IE 5.0," said Barbara Gore, Centraal's senior vice president of business development and strategic planning. She confirmed that LinkExchange is a possible reseller.
Likewise, Microsoft's reselling RealNames would help fulfill Centraal's ambition "to have RealNames in as many places as possible where Webmasters would be interested in learning about services," Gore said. The 1 million registered users of LinkExchange, which Microsoft bought in November 1998 to use as a channel to reach small companies on the Internet, would be a logical spot for selling RealNames.
To use Centraal's services, Web users must have special software, so persuading browser makers to put that software into their client software is key to Centraal's goal of achieving widespread use. NeoPlanet enables RealNames in version 2.0 of its browser.
A broader relationship with Microsoft could pressure Netscape, which has been talking to Centraal for months about an alliance, to cut a deal too. However, Netscape has been dragging its feet in talks, because its browser includes "smart browsing" technology that works somewhat like RealNames.
In addition, Netscape's acquisition by America Online has complicated discussions. Mike Homer, the Netscape executive who oversees browser software and the Netcenter Web site, is going on sabbatical for several months, and there have been other high-level departures in that division.
Last week Centraal announced that individuals with home pages hosted on Web community sites such as GeoCities, Tripod, Angelfire, Xoom.com, and others can get a free RealName address. Centraal also hopes to get those hosting sites to sell RealNames, targeting individuals who want more than one name.