INTERNET WORLD: Startup simplifies Web address system

Startup centraal corp. has unveiled at the Internet World trade show in Los Angeles a new system that is designed to make it easier for Web surfers to find home pages on the Internet. The company's 'real name system' allows users to enter real words in the address field of their Web browser, rather than the 'lengthy and clumsy' Internet addresses that begin 'http://www. ...' The catch is that Websites must be registered - at $US40 - with the service.

Startup centraal corp. has unveiled at the Internet World trade show in Los Angeles a new system that is designed to make it easier for Web surfers to find home pages on the Internet.

The company's "real name system" allows users to enter real words in the address field of their Web browser, rather than the "lengthy and clumsy" Internet addresses that begin "http://www. ...," says Keith Teare, centraal's CEO and co-founder.

For example, centraal's system allows a user to type "New Beetle" in the URL field and be directed to the home page for the new Volkswagen Beetle, Teare said.

The system requires users to download a free browser plug-in from centraal's Web site, at http://www.realnames.com/. It also requires companies to pay US$40 to register their home pages in a server maintained by centraal, he said.

The company has already entered the "real names" of about half a million companies in its server, so that businesses can begin using the system as soon as it comes on line, which is expected to be in six to eight weeks, Teare said. The system is currently in public beta.

The real name system can provide a more accurate way of finding a company's home page than entering the ubiquitous "http://www.companyname.com" and hoping for the best, Teare said. For example, typing "http://www.bambi.com" in a standard Web browser leads users to a pornography site. Typing "Bambi" using centraal's system would lead a user to the Disney site, Teare said.

That is because centraal closely regulates who registers what name for their Web site, Teare said.

The system uses Unicode, which supports the character sets of virtually all languages, meaning centraal can offer its real name system worldwide, Teare said. The company is in partnership talks with all the major search engine companies, he said.

Based in Palo Alto, California, centraal was cofounded in 1997 by Teare and Jean-Marie Hullot, one-time chief technology officer of Next Software Inc.

Teare said he got the idea for the real name system in France, home of the popular Minitel electronic information system. French people learn by heart the numbers for companies and services they use in Minitel, and Teare said he was looking for a way that would allow the French to enter Minitel numbers in the URL field of a Web browser when he came up with the real name system.

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