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Commentary: RealNames' real problem

VeriSign's keyword partnership with RealNames fails to address a fundamental problem: The current Web domain naming conventions are good enough for most people.

By Whit Andrews, Gartner Analyst

VeriSign's keyword partnership with RealNames fails to address RealNames' fundamental market problem: The current Internet domain naming conventions are good enough for most people.

RealNames has been trying for years to introduce new,

See news story:
VeriSign, RealNames push keyword browsing
easier naming conventions as an alternative to the confusing and unwieldy Domain Naming System (DNS). Despite a sustained campaign, the company's offerings have failed to reach critical mass--and the VeriSign deal is unlikely to change that situation significantly.

The RealNames problem is simple: DNS, despite its well-known weaknesses, is a technically workable--and reasonably comprehensible--method of naming Internet resources. The DNS method tends to falter when faced with the complexity and variety of consumers' interests--and with the fact that human language allows for terms that aren't specific enough to provide useful returns. Nonetheless, it remains entirely adequate for most Internet users' purposes--especially when combined with the many search engines and indexes that are available.

RealNames' perseverance in the face of daunting technical and marketing challenges has yet to translate into large-scale consumer acceptance. The VeriSign partnership, which is essentially a promotional arrangement, will probably not be the factor that enables RealNames to break through to a broader market.

This arrangement will raise awareness of the RealNames alternative, especially among less technologically sophisticated domain name buyers. Small and midsize businesses buying domain names for the first time--probably the key market segment for this deal--will learn about RealNames from VeriSign, and the resulting revenue boost will certainly be helpful.

However, RealNames' basic problem--and one that VeriSign cannot help with--is that it fails to answer an age-old question: "If there really isn't a problem, why is a solution needed?"

(For related commentary on an alliance between Microsoft and VeriSign, see Gartner.com.)

Entire contents, Copyright © 2001 Gartner, Inc. All rights reserved. The information contained herein represents Gartner's initial commentary and analysis and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. Positions taken are subject to change as more information becomes available and further analysis is undertaken. Gartner disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information. Gartner shall have no liability for errors, omissions or inadequacies in the information contained herein or for interpretations thereof.