By Rachel Chalmers RealNames Corp is poised to announce the release of the source code to its application programming interfaces and client libraries under an open source license. CEO Nico Popp told ComputerWire that the release will make it easier for application developers to build RealNames’ keyword-based navigation services into their own applications. It should […]
By Rachel Chalmers
RealNames Corp is poised to announce the release of the source code to its application programming interfaces and client libraries under an open source license. CEO Nico Popp told ComputerWire that the release will make it easier for application developers to build RealNames’ keyword-based navigation services into their own applications. It should also make it easier for the company to get free bug notification and ideas for new features. Popp encourages the developer community to make comments and suggestions. The more data in RealNames’ back-end, the more useful secondary applications will be, and vice versa.
If there’s one thing RealNames needs, it’s a following. Of the million keywords in its database, barely 6% are paid for. We’ve been trying to create a database that would respond to what people are looking for on search engines, Popp explains. Our primary rule is that we don’t want to create a bad user experience. For brand names, we think we have a much better database [than search engines]. You’re guaranteed that you’ve linked to an official web site. While paid subscribers have a big incentive to keep URLs up to date, RealNames must resort to a web crawler and human maintenance to keep the bulk of its links fresh. Popp points out that a typical search engine has 15% broken links, compared with 1% for RealNames, and that since RealNames is dealing with much smaller index, such manual updates are still feasible. But as the database grows, it will have to be maintained by paying customers and third-party application developers. Hence the source release.
In spite of its comparative unpopularity, Popp says it’s too early to write RealNames off as a good idea that never caught fire. The company is only two-and-a-half years old, he points out. The first year was just five people in a garage developing the product, he argues. A year ago, we were only on AltaVista. Now we’re on InfoSeek and LookSmart and we have a deal with Inktomi and MSN Search. This year has really been about getting the distribution channels in place to make it compelling for someone to get a keyword. Awareness is a problem, Popp admits, but RealNames raised $70m a month and a half ago. It plans to use the money for a huge marketing campaign to increase traffic from the current two million or so hits per day.
Opening the source and marketing the keywords are only part of the answer. There’s also a proposal now before the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). Human-friendly navigation is really a missing piece in the internet infrastructure, Popp insists. What’s needed is a common name resolution protocol (CNRP). A working group within the IETF is developing CNRP as a standard way to talk to systems such as RealNames. Once there is a protocol, the systems can move to where they should be – within the internet infrastructure, Popp concludes. Not only are we going to participate in creating the specification, we are going to implement that spec on top of our platform, and we are going to give the source away to anyone that wants to use it. á