Microsoft will not renew a two-year-old contract to resolve keywords in Internet Explorer, the Web browser used by most Internet users, said Keith Teare, RealNames' founder and chief executive officer in a statement.
Eighty RealNames employees were laid off last week after Microsoft told RealNames earlier in the week that it would not renew its contract, Teare said. Without support in Internet Explorer, the keywords will not work.
RealNames, founded in 1996, set out to simplify navigating the Web by replacing Web addresses, or Uniform Resource Locators (URLs), with keywords. Rights to keywords were sold by RealNames and partners around the globe. Keywords were used about 500 million times in the first quarter of this year, according to Teare.
Webeffekt, a European RealNames partner, confirmed the end of RealNames. The company was informed via e-mail this morning.
"The information we got is that the co-operation between RealNames and Microsoft will end," said Robert Biermann, general manager of Webeffekt.
"I am not sure what the effect on our business will be. We expect some angry customers. Also, we invested in a platform to register keywords. It was all a waste of time."
Under the March 2000 contract, Microsoft was given 20% of RealNames stock and $15m (£10.34m) in cash. An additional $25m was due this month. RealNames could not afford this, but proposed a new agreement. However, control, not money, was the issue, Teare stated.
"Microsoft dislikes the product because it cannot control it," he said. "A small private company is being denied an audience - not because of money - but because of fear of losing control."
Teare claims that Microsoft is now working on its own keyword navigation system.