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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org/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.