was a company that marketed keyword
-based website promotion. Their main product was a browser plugin for Microsoft
's Internet Explorer
that Microsoft, under a deal, distributed with the browser. RealNames has now closed down, as Microsoft decided to end this deal. Sales ended May 10, 2002
, and browser plugin expired (and the rest of the services closed down) in June 28, 2002
RealNames marketed keywords (specifically called Internet Keywords), and this is how they got the money. A lots of it. Whenever people typed a keyword to MSIE, they got directed wherever RealNames wanted - and who had, or had not, paid great amount of money for their keyword. The prices were, according to some, just insanely high - smaller parties had no chance to get a RealName. (Chris Dibona says¹ after he got the linux.com domain name, RealNames dropped a note saying "Linux" keyword would cost 1 million dollars for 4 years!)
RealNames' glorious management (specifically Keith Teare, the CEO), of course, accused Microsoft for driving them out of business and being a Monopolistic Bully, but it was clear that RealNames had number of problems that are handled better by other means. For example, RealNames sold generic keywords that went to single page (type in "cookies" and you went to Whatevercookiebrand Inc web page, but had no other choice), and people often tended to remember the URLs anyway. Also, they used a closed system that worked with only one browser - admittedly a widely used one, though. (People building a DNS monopoly accuse Microsoft of browser monopoly. Brilliant...) Great search engines had risen since the RealNames launch, making things easier to find. RealNames was also said to be advanced because it supported full Unicode names, but utility of this was debatable because Unicode domain names already exist. Also, if I'm to use a harsh comment, people who don't understand this "URL" thing and insist using "keywords" use a more estabilished system in an ISP fit for their skills - AOL keywords.
And thanks to jasonm for reminding me of AOL keywords...