RealNames makes Web searches easier

RealNames launched new Internet search tools Wednesday designed to make it faster and easier for users to find information on the Web.

When users search the Web today they typically go to sites run by companies such as Yahoo Inc., Google Inc. or Microsoft Corp. and type in a query for information which generates links to related sites. RealNames has made it possible for users to cut out one step by typing the name of the search engine they want to use and their search query directly into the address bar of Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser.

For example, users can enter "Google apples" or "Google cars" into the Internet Explorer address bar and generate a page of Google search results without having first gone to its home page. The system works with many of the major search engines including those run by Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and Excite@Home Inc., RealNames said.

Starting next week the system will also work with search engines operated by America Online Inc., according to Keith Teare, founder and chief executive officer at RealNames. AOL, a unit of AOL Time Warner Inc., did not return calls seeking confirmation.

Users can already run searches in a similar way with both Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator, but the searches automatically use search engines from Microsoft and Netscape, respectively. The new system allows a user to specify their search engine of preference.

RealNames also expanded its keyword service, which lets users type plain words instead of the sometimes complex URL addresses in the address field of their browser. For example, the keyword service lets users to type "Ford Explorer" to get to the Explorer page at Ford Motor Co.'s Web site, rather than having to type www.fordvehicles.com/suvs/explorersport/. Companies pay RealNames a fee to use the service, which competes with a similar offering from AOL.

RealNames on Wednesday said it had enhanced that service in a way that lets companies link telephone area codes or country codes to the names of products and services. A company in San Francisco, for example, could purchase the phrase "415 pizza," where 415 is one of the city's telephone area codes. When a user types the phrase into Microsoft's search bar, they would be taken to a page listing pizza restaurants in San Francisco.

RealNames hopes the service will appeal to travelers, who could type an area code or country code where they are visiting followed by the name of the product or service they wish to locate, such as "rental car," or "swimming pool," Teare said.

Asked if users might find the bevy of search options confusing, Teare said he expects that most users will find their searching preference through trial and error. "I think the best thing to do is make it possible for almost anything to be typed into the browser," he said.

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