Google Recreates "RealNames" with "+" Search Feature

[ Typing in +Google into Google search takes you directly to Google's official G+ page. ]

Google's launch of Direct Connect, which lets users bypass traditional search results with the "+" operator when looking for brands, is essentially a recreation of the late RealNames.
Typing in "+Pepsi," for instance, automatically directs you to Pepsi's Google+ page. While Google only allows the "+" search operator in regards to brands, LAUNCH wonders if that functionality will make its way to other keywords.

RealNames, founded by Keith Teare in 1997, aimed to create an alternative to the domain name system by letting users type keywords, such as "united airlines," to automatically navigate to the United Airlines website. In 2002, RealNames had to shutdown in light of being unable to renew its distribution partnership with Microsoft.

Before shutting down, Microsoft Internet Explorer provided native support of RealNames' keywords. Although losing its partnership with Microsoft prompted the shutdown, RealNames initially launched as a downloadable browser plug-in and according to the site's landing page, RealNames is in the midst of a comeback.

"We are staying true to the spirit of the original names but working in a different space," RealNames' Michael Goldstein tells LAUNCH via email. "We are interested in solving problems finding people, not brands. We are excited about what Google is doing with brands." 

There were a couple of reasons why RealNames shutdown: RealNames owed Microsoft $25M for "resolutions" already delivered throughout the span of two years and Microsoft did not see RealNames as a being successful product in the long-term.

In a response to Microsoft, Teare wrote on his weblog , "As far as I can see the non-renewal of RealNames contract was because Microsoft wants former keywords like 'IBM Thinkpad' to result in an MSN Search page rather than going to the IBM Thinkpad site at And it wants control over the user experience."

Teare also cited that Microsoft filed a patent for "Flexible keyword searching," and gained ownership of it in June 2005. Currently, Microsoft still owns the patent, which states, among other things: "A search engine implements a multi-level search scheme." 

LAUNCH editors wonder if Direct Connect infringes upon Microsoft's patent for flexible keyword searching, and what that could mean for Google. LAUNCH has contacted RealNames and Google and will update this story if we receive a response.