Stuck With an Ugly URL? These Two Services Could Send Traffic Your Way – Centraal’s RealNames service – Company Business and Marketing

Cristina Gair

IF CIRCUMSTANCES HAVE saddled you with a grotesque URL–you know, one of those 04354/agent.html monstrosities–and you either can’t find or won’t pay for the private domain name you need, it’s going to hurt your business. Potential customers might see the complex address and steer clear, or at the very least show up at your site with some serious questions about your home-based operation.

Don’t close up shop just yet, however. Centraal, a software developer in Palo Alto, Calif., has created a system called RealNames ( that could help you polish your image and drive more traffic to your site. System subscribers looking for your site wouldn’t have to bother keying in your lengthy URL, they could simply type in your RealName–say, Ed’s Ceramic Store–and be whisked directly to your page.

The key factor is that you have to be a RealName subscriber, or use a downloadable network extension, to utilize RealNames. If everybody on the planet signs up for a RealName, it could make the entire domain system an afterthought. But that’s not likely to happen anytime soon.

Still, RealNames has its value: “The first advantage is in promotional terms,” says Centraal CEO Keith Teare. “If you’re promoting a product and all that the customer has to remember is the name of your product, it’s that much easier to find.”

For larger companies, the RealName system is free up front; they only pay according to the number of hits generated by the service. Small and home-based businesses pay $100 per year for a RealName listing. Some 10,000 customers currently subscribe to the service.

Netword LLC (www., headquartered in Gaithersburg, Md., provides a similar service for home-based businesses looking to drive more traffic to their sites. Entrepreneurs saddled with unfriendly Web addresses can pay a $5 per month fee to obtain a Netword–a URL featuring real-world syntax including spaces. This allows customers to key in yournetword to go straight to your site. Alternatively, they can download free software enabling them to key any active Netword directly into their browser. (Noncommercial Internet users can set up an unlimited number of free Networds.)

As with the RealNames system, it’s not as good as having your own domain, but it’s a bit cheaper, and a good backup for when all the good domains are gone.

COPYRIGHT 1999 CURTCO Freedom Communications

COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group

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