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How will Internet Keywords work for the web?

July 22,1998
By Rob Cummings
Owner/Keyword.com.

Will Internet Keywords work for the web?

The answer is yes, but probably not if they're entered in the browser, and probably not unless there are certain rules to avoid conflicts.

When I first read about Netscape's internet keywords and their Smart Browser feature, some questions immediately came to mind.

1) Although it is true that Netscape's Smart Browser internet keyword system has a prime default position in terms of traffic, how long will it take for people to become frustrated with NetCenter's results knowing they are probably weighted by Netscape's commercial interests?

2) What about the other +/- 50% using the Microsoft Browser?
Will they choose NetCenter as their default portal?

3) If Yahoo or Excite sold keyword positions, would they have grown to their present size?

4) Will I still be able to enter "keyword" and have the browser automatically add the "http:" and ".com" like it did?

5) Will most people actually spend time entering "guessed" entries into a browser or would they prefer to know the "address" in advance?

Maybe the best solution is not in the browser at all
Keyword.com believes the better solution is NOT to incorporate keywords into the browser at all... (especially if the browser is accepting financial rewards for listings), since the results of a search will almost undoubtedly be biased. This seems to inhibit the free exchange of ideas which the internet was built on. Most if not all of these same problems apply to any in-the-browser keyword system. Keyword.com believes the browser is not an appropriate place for internet keywords.

The Internet and the telephone have striking similarities
Compare the internet to using the telephone. Do people seeking Ford Automotive randomly dial various combinations like 1-800-FORDCAR, 1-800-CARFORD, etc. and see who answers until they get the right one? Why does anyone think entering in the browser will work any differently?

The internet, like the telephone, contains too many "addresses" to list on the actual instrument itself. Since it is not practical to list EVERY telephone number on the telephone itself, phone companies provide white page directories (which list all "addresses" in an unbiased manner). People want to go to a complete directory, not one that is "edited" or based on a commercially-biased selection. Using the telephone analogy, users want to be able to connect to all the numbers, not just the numbers the phone company "recommends". And, I, for one, would be very upset if the phone company started redirecting my outgoing calls to a number it "thought" I wanted. I believe it is the same for the internet.

The white pages seem to work well. In most cases, people find what they want in the white pages mainly because everyone is not listed as "sex" (the most popular keyword). Instead people use their real names, or company names, and in the case of keyword.com, if there are duplicates, they can modify their name to make it unique, or use their 800 number, or advertising slogan, or product name, or brand name. In the white pages they might use their middle initials to identify them from others with the same name.

Remember when phone numbers in small towns had only four numbers? The phone company simply added more numbers to accommodate more users. By combining words, names and phrases, there are numerous possibilities to avoid conflicts.

And here's the key to internet keywords: just like 1-800-FLOWERS is easier to remember than the actual phone number, an internet keyword can be easier to remember than the URL address, BUT, IT MUST BE PROMOTED TO WORK EFFECTIVELY. Internet keywords should be alternates to the URL, similar to the way one can dial either 1-800-FLOWERS or the actual phone number. How many people would dial 1-800-FLOWERS if it was not promoted?

Just as most (if not all) people would never consider punching in
randomly guessed numbers in hopes of reaching a specific party on the phone, keyword.com does not believe experienced internet users will embrace the concept of punching in random guesses into the smart browser.

Surely new users may initially embrace NetCenter, but as soon as they realize the results are "weighted" and possibly not comprehensive, they will likely switch to an unbiased source like Yahoo or Excite... or keyword.com.

I've always been a Netscape proponent, however, NetCenter seems to take away more than it gives. Although one small step may be eliminated by using its Smart Browser feature, important features seem to be eliminated. It seems that Netscape (using Smart Browser) no longer automatically adds the "http" and ".com" in the browser window (I've seen this referred to as autocanonicalization). This minor downgrade alone may have (oddly enough) given arch-rival Microsoft Internet Explorer a tremendous boost. It was nice to be able to enter "keyword" and have the browser fill in the rest! I liked that autocanonicalization feature. I want it back.

I read recently of Dave Winer's complaints, when he entered
"scripting", which used to direct users to www.scripting.com, but now, with Smart Browser, sends users to a Netscape site.

What's wrong with search engines anyway?
keyword.com plans to follow the search engine model and remain autonomous. What's wrong with using a search engine? Judging by traffic at the major search engines, the numbers seem to indicate that people don't mind visiting a site to find what they want. And I believe people eventually will want it all, rather than a commercially filtered or abridged selection. So keyword.com will remain unbiased (outside of not accepting pornographic or illegal sites). Users can visit keyword.com as easily as a search engine, without any browser affiliation, and without any plug-ins.

What's nice about MetaCrawler and keyword.com
With its default to MetaCrawler, keyword.com is BOTH a search engine and an internet keyword database.

At keyword.com, users with internet keywords go DIRECTLY to the site they want, and those without internet keywords SEARCH all 7 popular search engines (AltaVista, Excite, Infoseek, Lycos,
Thunderstone, Webcrawler and Yahoo ALL AT ONCE).

How we're building a better internet keyword database
keyword.com's policies restrict the use of search-engine-type internet
keywords which would interfere with normal searching, so most if not all users get the results they want (without being inadvertently redirected to a page they didn't want). We're working on ways to make the response even more accurate.

For company name keywords, which will become the hottest issue, Keyword.com requires companies to add one or two descriptive words along with the company name... so "Sony" is not allowed, but "Sony Electronics" is.

Each keyword.com internet keyword registration is reviewed and evaluated to insure that registered internet keywords (we call them SuperKeywords) do not interfere with normal searches. We also check and make a conscientious effort to avoid trademark disputes.

Small Note: You may notice a few internet keywords at keyword.com which
do interfere with search-engine-type searches and these early registrants have been given a 90 day grace period to make the transition since our policies became more strict. Members, please enter POLICIES at keyword.com for more information.

keyword.com internet keywords cannot be bought or sold, so there is no built-in bias. Our solution is to remain unbiased. If either or both Netscape and Microsoft, or MCI or AT&T, or WorldNet, or any others wish to incorporate keyword.com into their browsers as a default, or link to keyword.com at some point in time, that would be fine. We would welcome any partnership, however we feel that internet keywords should always be free.

Just like the search engines, we feel the increased traffic will generate advertising revenues.

To increase traffic, members are required to place a small keyword.com hyperlink on their site. Additionally, members must promote/use their SuperKeyword so keyword.com receives a minimum of 6 hits in any 6-month period.

By giving people free internet keywords, they use them. This sends more users to their sites via keyword.com. It's a very simple idea which continues to grow on its own.

In the coming year we will be offering new and innovative ways to promote sites, and better ways for users to find sites. Please stay tuned.

Rob Cummings
keyword.com

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