The battle to find a workable alternative to URLs hotted up yesterday with the award of a patent to Arlington, Virginia-based Netword LLC, for its eponymous technology that enables web users to type in keywords in browsers and be taken to related web sites that have signed up to the Netword system. Netword says it […]
The battle to find a workable alternative to URLs hotted up yesterday with the award of a patent to Arlington, Virginia-based Netword LLC, for its eponymous technology that enables web users to type in keywords in browsers and be taken to related web sites that have signed up to the Netword system. Netword says it filed for the patent in the fall of 1995. It launched its service in May last year. A rival service, from Centraal Corp, arrived in March this year. The two systems work in basically the same way; the map keywords on to URLs so when a keyword is typed in it can find the URL. Netword is free for non- commercial users and $5 per month for commercial operators, whereas Centraal’s Real Name service costs $40 per year, and is aimed squarely at the corporate market. Because of its patent, Netword couldn’t be more specific about the differences between the two products, other than accusing Centraal’s registration system of being very difficult to use and of its corporate aims being misguided. Centraal recently struck a deal with Compaq Computer Corp’s AltaVista web site whereby keyword searches prompt user’s to register with its Real Name service, if appropriate. That’s not the way to go, says Netword: their [Centraal’s] intent is to restrict the name space, it says. Centraal’s chief executive Keith Teare said there were significant differences between the two: Centraal is based on distributed XML objects, while Netword is a database back-end and lookup tables, he says. Teare agreed that the business models are indeed different – he claims there were 2.7 million hits on its hyperlink on the AltaVista page. However the two companies have more in common than they would admit, for like Centraal Corp, Netword claims to be talking to the two main browser companies and various online service providers – you can probably guess the name of at least one – but it cannot name names just yet. Netword says negotiations started around the fall of last year after being approached, rather than the other way round, and would only say that the patent is one of its strong positives in the negotiations. It would seem that there is only room for one of these two in the market place and a winner will probably appear within the next six months. Netscape announced a similar, if more basic version of the technology it calls Smart Browsing for use in the next version of Communicator. We know Centraal has been talking to Netscape and it reckons it has a good chance of adding to the Netscape technology, which was developed in house. Netword says it wouldn’t want to comment on Smart Browsing, other than to say that it is a wonderful sign to the industry. Netword will not be drawn on whether it has Centraal in its legal crosshairs other than to say that those that infringe on our intellectual property rights will receive notice. Teare said the patent is pretty general and may even affect hyperlinks themselves, as they are a way of linking common language to URLs, he says. In his personal – not legal – opinion, Teare says the patent is so general as to be meaningless.