A new product lets Net users forget the "dot-com" in Net addresses, if they
can remember a simple keyword.
Using Netword, you can type a single
word, such as "Dilbert," into your Web browser location window, to be
transported to "http://www.unitedmedia.com/comics/dilbert/." Surfers have
to download the free Netword Agent software to use the new system.
But there's a hitch: the single keywords don't work unless Web sites have
paid a registration fee to Netword. So when Netizens type in unregistered
words, like "Netscape," they won't be sent to Netscape's homepage. Instead
they'll be delivered to Netword's site, where a link may be provided. Netword
is also touting a feature that lets companies apply keywords to
multiple pages on their sites. But some logical keywords such as
"Microsoft products" don't take surfers to any pages on Microsoft's site.
Although the latest Web browsers let you type in part of a site's
name, like "pepsi.com," Netword aims to make surfing even easier. This
tactic may gain popularity with the new generation of Net users who are
less computer savvy. For example, WebTV targets non-PC
users, and has a similar keyword system for finding Web sites.
Corporations, organizations and individuals can register their sites with
Netword. The monthly fee is $1 for personal homepages and $5 per keyword for
companies. But major corporations can pay $100 for 10 keywords to be
applied to multiple pages within a Web site. There are additional charges
for extra keywords. If a company's Networds get more than 50,000 hits per
month, it will also pay additional fees.
While Netword would not say how many sites are registered, Shep Bostin,
director of marketing, said the company has registered at least 26 Fortune
500 companies. "It's getting rapid corporate acceptance," he said.
The commercial growth of the Web has caused a slew of trademark disputes
over Net addresses, such as "http://www.marilynmonroe.com." Trademark
owners have sued Web sites for using the famous names of Monroe, a New York jazz club, and Esquire and
the New Yorker magazines.
Netword could lead to similar trademark issues. For example, a Web designer could register the Netword "Apple Computer," and then point
surfers to his Macintosh "tips" site.
But the creators of Netword say they have taken steps to avoid trademark
conflicts. The site has a link to the U.S. Patents and Trademark registrar's
list of more than 800,000 names, so visitors can verify whether their
potential Netword is someone else's trademark. Also, Netword has set up a
hierarchy as to who has precedent to register a word. Federal agency sites
are registered Networds automatically. If a trademarked word is registered
to a nonowner, the keyword will be revoked if challenged.
Netword has set aside up to 1,500 corporate trademarks so the companies
will have first dibs to register their name.