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Another Dot-Com Disaster 13 May 2002 Edition
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Million $ Ideas
At last, the contents of Aardvark's "million-dollar ideas" notebook are revealed for all to see!
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Back in the "stupid old days" (SOD) when top domain names sold for millions of dollars and everyone thought that the planet's digital infrastructure would melt down on Jan 1 2000, a company by the name of RealNames thought they had a good idea.

Watching all these huge amounts of money change hands for the rights to domain names such as business.com, altavista.com, etc, RealNames figured that they'd make a fortune by setting up an alternative to the DNS (domain name service) that was behind the dot-coms of the world.

The idea was widely criticised by many in the industry who said that we didn't need an alternative. The critics also pointed out that it would never fly because it required users to download and install a plug-in for their browser before it would even work.

Coming Up This Week
In response to reader demand, I'll be publishing and archiving an updated version of my guide to website promotion and online marketing. If you've got a website that needs more traffic, or if you're trying to sell products or services online then this is the type of information that you can pay big money for elsewhere. Don't miss it.

However, RealNames were not about to let facts get in the way of a good business-case so off they went to Microsoft with their glossy brochures and a bag full of blue-sky revenue projections -- and the software giant believed them.

As a result, the RealWords system was integrated into Internet Explorer and, if all went to plan, both companies would earn huge lumps of cash from witless online businesses who, they figured, would be equally swayed by those glossy brochures.

Unfortunately, it was not to be.

When, in early 2000, the world finally woke up to the fact that the sky wasn't falling and that the Net was just another form of telecommunications -- the party was over.

Suddenly people were no longer queuing up to buy those popular domain names -- and what's more, there were a whole lot of new top-level domains (such as .biz, .info, .pro, etc) being proposed.

The market had, in effect, poured hot coffee all over RealNames' glossy brochures and it became clear that the idea was (and always had been) a real lemon.

Well that's not strictly true -- the idea was sound but the method by which they implemented it and the way they tried to charge nearly $500 per name was just plain stupid.

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  • Alternative TLD's... - David
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    In the wake of the dot-com crash, deals that RealNames had struck with various search engines began to fall apart and Microsoft was clearly less than happy with the fact that things were not going to plan.

    Last week Microsoft announced that it was delivering a coup de gras by dropping support for RealNames from Internet Explorer -- a move which effectively disconnects the RealNames system from the Net.

    In response, RealNames has thrown up its hands and said "enough." Strike out one more ill-implemented and over-funded dot-com business.

    The company's founder is not about to go down without making a noise however and he has published his own view of things. My only comment would be that if you play with knives then you should not complain when you get badly cut.

    However, one can't help but wonder what Microsoft might have up its sleeve.

    If it weren't for the recent anti-trust prosecutions being leveled at Billy's little software shop, I bet they'd be rolling out a better product -- such as the one I suggested several years ago. In fact, I've always wondered whether that column might have been a factor in RealNames launching their own service and getting into bed with Microsoft -- or was it just a case of "great minds think alike" (and fools seldom differ).

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