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Monday, April 29, 2002

"Generic: Relating to or descriptive of an entire group or class..." [via Bartleby] Last fall, RealNames and Verisign got together to institute registration for "Keywords" that work in Microsoft Internet Explorer, as CNN, PC World and others reported at the time. In theory, Keywords have much to recommend them, in the way that ActiveWords does: type "la times" into the IE address bar and go straight to the Los Angeles Times web page - as long the Times has registered the Keyword (it has). As of February 13, 2002, RealNames began offering Keyword registration: for $49.00 U.S., you can instantly register a "Basic" Keyword that, when used, includes an ad for the service: "Basic Keywords are lower traffic web addresses which are available for immediate registration. Basic Keywords provide direct navigation through the Internet Explorer address bar and include a Keyword Window that is displayed at the top of your website. Basic Keywords do not work in MSN searches." [from RealNames] (Try the "la times" example.) Fees are charged on a per-country basis; if you'd like your Basic Keyword to work in the U.S. and Austria, for example, you will pay two $49.00 fees. (Most available countries are $49.00, but prices vary. France, for example, came up in my search results as costing $799.00 U.S.) Unlike the more expensive "Plus" product, "Basic" keywords do not appear to be subject to review by a human prior to registration; rather, a check is done to see if the desired keyword is available. If it is unregistered but uses a recognized brand or potential trademark, the would-be registrant gets this message: "Your Keyword may be available as a Keyword Plus. It must first be reviewed and approved for appropriate ownership." "Basic" keywords that do not raise such an "ownership" flag need only be available and not generic:
"When you check for Keyword availability, the RealNames database checks for terms which are already registered and filters out many generic terms. Generic terms include 'common terms' which can be found in the dictionary or identify an entire category of goods, products, or services. Terms such as these are identified in the RealNames system as generic are not available for registration." [sic; from RealNames]
So far, so good. But here's what caught my attention. A friend was telling me over the weekend about the Keywords he had registered, and they struck me as, well, common terms that identified an entire category of goods, products or services. So, to get a better idea of what RealNames considers too generic to register as a Basic keyword, I ran a few searches of my own: ● "plumber" - too generic, not available. ● "California plumber" - available. ● "best California plumber" - available. ● "guru" - too generic, not available. ● "plumbing guru" - available. ● "web guru" - available. ● "expert" - too generic, not available. ● "clog expert" - available. ● "web expert" - available. Elsewhere on the site (follow the link "for detailed descriptions of reasons why your Keyword may not be approved"), while explaining its "Plus" product, RealNames explains what it seeks to accomplish by restricting registration of "generic" terms:
"Web users understand that this term could reasonably be expected to apply to a collection of web sites or businesses, and would expect to receive a list of web sites that meet their needs, rather than to navigate directly to one particular site. User expectation, rather than asserted intellectual property rights, is the primary criteria during Keyword Review. Trademarks, which are granted by industry category, do not supersede the requirement for clear user expectation within the Country Keyword locale. As such, we encourage our customers to choose Keywords that represent their unique identities, across industries and geographies. Anything that increases the specificity of a Keyword will contribute to its success. We encourage Keyword submissions that include specific qualifiers, such as geographic location, e.g. Henry's Books of Monterey."
I'm curious: if you entered the term "web expert," would you expect to receive a list of sites, rather than navigating to one in particular because someone had paid a $49.00 fee?

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