Tucows uses name of dot.com bubble era company to launch new service.
Tucows has brought back the name of the the dot.com bubble darling, but for a very different purpose.
RealNames was a system designed to replace or circumvent domain names. Instead of typing a domain name like Money.com in your browser, you could just type “Money”. RealNames would resolve the query to whomever had registered the keyword “Money” with RealNames (at a cost, of course).
The company raised over $100 million in capital, and Michael Arrington (who later joined Pool.com and then founded TechCrunch) was once an employee.
RealNames was highly dependent on both internet browser creators and search engines. I recall that when I bought a keyword through the service, the key benefit was showing up at the top of search results for that term at various search engines. (Here’s info on an example deal with Google for this search engine placement. Remember, this was before PPC search ads were widespread.)
When Microsoft later decided to divert browser queries in Internet Explorer to its own search engine, RealNames shut its doors.
In a way, RealNames was like an alternate root service. It’s a pretty telling case study in how these don’t work since they rely on partner distribution. It’s also interesting to think about how people were saying “all the good .com domain names are taken”, way back when there were only about 10 million registered.
OK, so what’s Tucows up to? This past summer, RealNames.com started resolving to a page talking about a comeback:
RealNames.com 2.0 is now live, but it has nothing to do with the original business model of RealNames. It’s an email service.
Tucows owns a huge portfolio of surname domain names thanks to its Mailbank acquisition. Go to RealNames.com, type in your first and last name, and the service will offer you email@example.com/net if it owns the corresponding domain name.
RealNames.com isn’t the only dot.com bubble era brand getting a rebirth. Remember Kozmo?
I’m feeling a bit nostalgic.
Alexander Schubert says
I do not see the “brand rebirth” here. They use the same domain name to offer completely different services. And how many of their now targeted audience has EVER heard about the original “RealNames”? One percentile?
Jay Boucher says
wow…2 WHOLE gigs of storage for ONLY 35 bucks a year! #fail
*Bleeping* greedy bastards. I had an email for many, many years. I can’t even remember the company name when I got it (before Hover and before Name Planet). It went from $5/yr to $25/yr without providing anything more. Pure extortion. I see my old email address is still available. Even if they offered it at the original price I would never do business with them again.
Jeff Edelman says
I don’t even remember exactly how Real Names worked. But we were a customer way back in time and it helped us a lot in our site’s early days. I know that it was one of the best ways for us to get traffic at a very reasonable cost. Still, I see the new “Real Names” will be nothing like the old one.
James Koole says
@Jay – we have many, many customers paying $35/year for a 2GB mailbox at present through Hover where we currently offer a similar service under Hover Personal Email branding. It’s our intention to raise that to something a bit bigger in the near future, but the vast majority of users of our service are far, far below 2GB of storage used. Because it’s name-based email, it naturally attracts non-business users who don’t need those big quotas.
@Alexander – other than the use of the domain name, I’d agree this isn’t a rebirth of RealNames. You are correct that 99.9% of Internet users even know what Realnames were back in the mid-90’s. I do however think it’s nice to see a really good domain name come back into use. I think of it more like an old car name coming back into use as something completely new.
Product Manager, Hover/RealNames
I would rather pay $35 a year for an email address like for example
John@Boston.email than John@Wilson.com
Because it is VERY unique. Try to register an email address with Google, Yahoo Hotmail ……using your first name only. Good luck
A fail no disclosure of terms and conditions anywhere you have to sign up to find out what they are. Half baked presentation. Details missing. Is this forever? Can they decide to sell the domain? Sure if someone throws them enough money and they only have 10 people using it they can and probably will wiggle out of any agreement (who is going to sue?)
Also the pages for the domains, at least this one, don’t even point to a realnames page but the hover site:
James Koole says
@larry – We were in the midst of a soft launch, rolling out to all the domains over the last couple of days to make sure we were handling the traffic to the sites (there’s quite a bit of direct type-in given the number of domains in the portfolio). We’ve since completed rolling it out across all domains.
And thanks for the suggestion on the TOS which we’ve added a direct link to in the footer now.
Product Manager, Hover/RealNames
I understand accurate monetization of your domain name base is key in this business model. Out of curiosity, don’t you think a domain like “money.com” (bad example you don’t own it, I know) would be more interesting to sell rather than to rent (i.e. “firstname.lastname@example.org” ) ? Surely the price would cover off years of email services for a bunch of customers ?
Would never use a site that cybersquats surnames. In fact ours is fairly rare so have started to let everyone know to stay away personal and business. Would rather someone with the same surname not related to me have it then a cybersquatter.
Interestingly Hover just informed me and “quite a few [other] customers” that they’re not continuing this service for my domain, and upon further querying they only tell me it is “just a business decision”. Well, thank you! I have carried my e-mail address from Mailbank to NetIdentity to Hover (did I forget any steps) and now an end seems in sight for an engagement of 17 years! (How much is that in Internet years?) Does this mean that this service is going to be suspended entirely? Why is Hover/Realnames doing this to their loyal (did I say 17 years) customers?
Miles Everhart says
The new Realnames is terrible. It’s extremely expensive and they register a large number of domain names that I would generally like to register
Stop Stealing Family Names says
Stole my sirname for their purposes and probably will never release it for my family to use at almost 0 cost due to having my own servers.
Cybersquatters Get Off the Internet says
I can only agree, it’s frustrating, because why would you want to rent an email when you could register the domain, except you can’t because they’re squatting it.
Sounds like a growing litany of potential class action plaintiffs, if you ask me. I’d definitely participate, as I too have a rightful claim to my surname and want to register it instead of getting fleeced to rent my own name by a squatter.
email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org are still available to rent 🙂
For $35/year you can be an “internet world celebrity”. I can imagine quite a few ideas to troll your friends for fun with such emails.
Has RealNames ever released some stats regarding the number of paying customers they have ?
I find selling email addresses on private domain names a very hard sell, considering the uncertainty and future of the domain name among many other things like privacy .etc.
If there ever will be a possibility to permanently split an email address (or even a subdomain) from a domain name, such that a future owner of the domain wouldn’t be able to cancel, that would be something. Then such a business will really get traction.
RealNames did not stole any domain. They legitimately bought it. This is business and it isn’t any different than the real estate market. If you want a domain name, pay up, just like you do when you buy any property. Or do you whine then as well, considering the world owns you something you perceive should be yours ?!
A commenter above says he has had an address for about 17 years. I have too. I have appreciated this service in the past, but it’s getting ridiculous. This started out at $5 per year. It’s now $35/yr. and it’s feeling a bit like a trap. Maybe worth the effort of slowly transitioning out even given the thousands of places my email is on file.
How does this service work? How do you check your email? Does your email send from the realnames address and can you receive email sent to the realnames address?
Real names is a scam says
Surname squatting is horrible. They have been doing this since the start of the internet basically. There has never been a true solve or even an attempt. To be honest if I could gather support from others who have the same surname I would love to work out a deal where we all get an email from the same surname domain. However this would be impossible to manage hence why these people try a scam anyone having a surname they are sitting on (under the belief they are offering us a honest reasonable service). I’m sure it’s making them money, otherwise they would have stopped by now. I hope karma gets them.