A San Francisco start-up on Monday is expected to begin offering its users a new way to do Web browsing: customizable keyword shortcuts.
Created by a company called OpenDNS, the idea is to allow people to create keywords that point to favorite Web sites. Gadget buffs could link that word to CNET News.com sister site Crave, for example, so they would be taken there merely by typing "gadgets" into their browser's address bar.
"OpenDNS shortcuts are designed to make the address bar usable again," said David Ulevitch, the company's chief executive. The service requires creating a free account and configuring a computer to use OpenDNS.
OpenDNS works by replacing the current domain name servers that computers use to translate addresses like CNET.com into numeric addresses like 18.104.22.168. The company says it offers faster browsing, automatic correction of domain name typos like .cmo for .com, and blocking of phishing sites. OpenDNS makes money through a Yahoo partnership that serves ads on pages that appear if Web addresses are mistyped.
The idea of keywords redirecting to Web sites isn't exactly new. RealNames tried to make a business out of it through a partnership with Microsoft, but it closed shop in 2002, after burning through tens of millions of dollars.
In addition, it's already possible to add keywords to browsers. Firefox comes standard with the dict keyword (try it by typing something like "dict news" into the address bar). Some Web sites even offer lists of keyword-Web site matches you can download.
The free OpenBook add-on offers far greater keyword flexibility for Firefox users, and the Opera Web browser has a similar feature.
Internet power users, in other words, already have plenty of options for keywords that point to Web sites. An advantage of OpenDNS, however, is that it can be configured for many computers at once, so a network administrator for a company or university can set up useful keywords like "hr" for human resources that will work across the entire network.
Another advantage to OpenDNS's service is that, because it's part of the domain name system, it's able to work on browsers like Internet Explorer that may not have add-ons available. In addition, Ulevitch added in a telephone conversation, OpenDNS shortcuts can work on mobile devices like a Treo that can be configured to use his company's domain name servers.
(Editor's note: OpenDNS is funded in part by Minor Ventures, a venture capital firm founded by Halsey Minor, who founded News.com parent company CNET Networks.)