Microsoft to add plain-language searches

The giant will incorporate Centraal's RealNames system into MSN search engines and the Internet Explorer 5 browser, allowing users to conduct plain-language searches.

Paul Festa Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Paul Festa
covers browser development and Web standards.
Paul Festa
2 min read
Centraal, whose RealNames system offers a plain-language alternative to traditional Web addresses, today said Microsoft will incorporate its system into MSN search engines and the Internet Explorer 5 browser.

The deal integrates RealNames into MSN's search engine, which means users of both MSN and Internet Explorer-based searches will start turning up RealNames results.

In addition, Centraal is making headway with another Web superpower. In a little-noticed provision of America Online's deal with search technology provider Inktomi, announced last week, AOL will start serving up RealNames both on AOL.com and throughout the AOL proprietary service.

Centraal and Inktomi have a distribution deal signed early this year.

Centraal maintains a database of plain-language names that make up an alternative addressing system for Web sites and individual Web pages. In Centraal's example, Pepsi can direct users to a page addressed "Pepsi One" rather than making visitors drill down through the main Pepsi page or remember a lengthy URL.

But for users to be able to search the RealNames database, they need to either download the Centraal client or search through a Web site that has the interface included.

"This relationship enables Centraal to credibly achieve its goal of the ubiquitous distribution of RealNames," chief executive Keith Teare said in an interview. "It's a watershed relationship in that it takes us to the next level of distribution where we can really begin to leverage our product for our customers."

In addition to AOL and MSN, Web sites serving up RealNames in their search results include AltaVista, Infoseek and Disney's Go Network, LookSmart, NeoPlanet, and AOL's ICQ client.

Centraal said in April that RealNames was listed as a search customization option in Microsoft's Internet Explorer 5 browser. But today's deal makes Centraal's system part of the default search results, rather than merely an option.

Centraal next hurdle is to achieve default status on America Online's Communicator browser. That might prove a trickier feat because America Online already maintains a keyword search function of its own through the address bar, powered by its Netscape Communications division's Netcenter portal.

Another result of the licensing and marketing deal between Microsoft and Centraal is that Microsoft will resell RealName subscriptions through MSN LinkExchange, which provides services to small businesses. Subscriptions cost $100 per name, per year. Centraal would not disclose the financial details of the deal, but noted that it typically distributes 50 percent of resolution revenues to its partners. Resolution revenues are those Centraal collects when a user clicks through to a RealNames subscriber's page.

Centraal's discussions with Microsoft over LinkExchange were first reported in April.

MSN will add RealNames support next quarter. The deal incorporating the MSN, LinkExchange, and AutoSearch properties will last two years.