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Whose Customers Are Those Typing Brand Names in the Browser's Address Bar?

Pan Jeong Lee

Fourteen years ago, we had so much hope at the start of a new century. We thought the global economy was going to improve a lot because of the emerging Internet technologies. But where are we today? What has happened in the last 14 years?

We know that even advanced countries are suffering from economic difficulties today. What happened to these advanced countries with high speed Internet?

The answer, though pretty simple, might shock you.

Let me ask you this: Whose customers are those who type your brand and company names in the Internet Address Bar — without .kr or .com? Please take note: not in the "search" bar.

Now, if you type in the URL bar mrpizza.co.kr or mrpizza.com (assuming these are domain names owned by Mr Pizza), whose customer are you?

Consider this, too: If you dial the telephone number of Mr Pizza, are you a customer of the telephone service provider, or the operator, like 411? No. You are definitely a customer of Mr Pizza. It's obvious.

By not typing ".co.kr" or ".com" in the URL bar, customers were not directly connected to Mr. Pizza.

Telephone numbers and domain names are protected by law. The people recognize those who dial the telephone number as customers of the owner of the telephone number. It is the same with domains. Domains are protected by laws. But customers who typed in brand and company names in the Internet address bar are not protected at all. Why? Is this fair? I do not think so.

Internet users who type brand and company names in the URL bar are directed to the portals. They have become customers of the portals. What is going on? What is happening?

The internet (the entrance in cyberspace) has become the best tool to hijack other companies' customers.

So, despite the best efforts of companies to keep their customers, many are still lost at the entrance of cyberspace — the Internet Address Bar. This is how the business falls. The company owners are aware there are some problems, but they do not know what exactly is going on.

One portal's CEO said, "Hijacking is a fascinating business." Nowadays, he has become a hero in the Internet business. And he has accumulated great wealth.

But the government is ignoring this. Why?

Every government puts much effort and spends a large amount of the national budget to improve their country's economy. But still several countries are suffering from national financial issues. How many countries are free from this issue?

Brand names, as well as company names, are registered with the government. But governments ignore customer hijacking in the entrance of the internet, and it makes companies lose revenue.

Remember, telephone numbers and domain names are not registered with the government, but they are protected by law. The same protection should be given to brand names without .co or .kr (or other domain name extensions, whether ccTLD or gTLD) in the internet address bar. It makes sense.

Brand names typed in the browser address bar without .com or .kr are still properties of the brand name owners. They should be properly protected.

A lot of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) rely on the internet and spend much money to recover their customers by keyword advertising. They think they are getting "new" customers. But in reality, they are merely recovering the customers they lost. The point is, the SMEs did lose their customers in the internet address bar. The business owners do not know why. (I will discuss keyword advertising elaborately in my succeeding columns.)

Why do the customers go to the portals, and why are they not directly connected to the company they typed?

Why can't the customers of Mr Pizza enjoy a direct connection?

Some portals said direct connection is 'feeling lucky,' but why did they make most customers feel unlucky?

We need a no-fuss, straightforward and legal system for customers to reach the companies directly online.

About a hundred years ago, an undertaker named Almon Strowger noticed he had been receiving fewer calls for his funeral services. He realized one of the local operators, the wife of his competitor, had been connecting calls for undertaker services to her husband.

Strowger thought it was not fair at all. He knew he had to do something to fix this unjust system.

So Strowger developed the "Automatic Switch" that connected calls directly to the telephone numbers dialed.

Now history is repeating itself. This telephone evolved into a more advanced technology — the Internet. In the Internet Age, the new operators are the portals!

The metaphorical wife (in the early stage of the telephone) of the undertaker is now working again in the Internet address bar, redirecting and hijacking customers.

The SMEs are losing their customers because the portals are making them their own customers. This is customer hijacking!

It was unfair one hundred years ago. And it is still unfair today in the 21st century.

It is time to wake up from this Internet injustice.

Here's another question for you: Who creates jobs for the people — is it the enterprises, or the customers?

We have to keep our customers because fundamentally, customers create jobs for the people. SMEs should not lose their customers online because SMEs hire about 90% of the employment ratio in each country.

I call for everyone's attention because customer-to-brand connection in cyberspace is one of the issues that affect the status of the economy today.

Sadly, most of us are not well aware of this.

For workplaces, in the agricultural age, people cultivated farmlands. In the ICT age, we must also cultivate the cyber farmlands.

To do this, we must first know: Where is cyberspace?

Everybody thinks "web" is only about the "world wide web." However, we have to recognize it has another meaning — trap. By understanding the cyberspace, we can avoid being trapped.

I intend to write more about the cyberspace and the SMEs in my next column. Please feel free to share with me your ideas on these topics. Until then!

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Share your comments

Whose customers? Daniel R. Tobias  –  Sep 30, 2014 6:27 PM PDT

Somebody who types an address (correct or incorrect) in a browser address bar is not necessarily anybody's customer; they're just somebody who's making an attempt to see what is at some address, maybe because they're a customer of the firm they think is at that address, or maybe because they're curious. At any rate, the address bar is part of the user's browser, so it's owned by the user, not any company that may think it has some sort of rights to whatever string of characters the user happens to type.

Whose customers? Pan Jeong Lee  –  Oct 02, 2014 2:42 AM PDT

Thank you for the smart comment, Mr Tobias.

- The way I see it, a user who types, for instance, “Company A” in the browser address bar
is certainly Company A’s customer or potential customer. Similarly, a person who dials
Company A’s number is either that company’s customer or potential customer.

-Let me just use the iPhone as an example. Users type iPhone at the Internet address bar
because they saw some news about the iPhone, or they probably saw an iPhone ad.

-My main point is: nobody should restrict the users by directing them to portals instead of
letting them enjoy a direct connection to their target website (company/brand).

In addition, when using mobile data, it is costly for the user when the process is not
straightforward (direct connection). If you type “Company A” and you are taken elsewhere,
you incur added data usage because you get connected to the portal first (not the target website).
Why should users pay extra for the portal redirection?

That said, I still thank you, Mr Tobias, for sharing with me your point of view.
'Hope to hear from you again when I write more about the same topic."

@leepanjeong

If you type "CIA", are you looking Daniel R. Tobias  –  Oct 02, 2014 5:54 AM PDT

If you type "CIA", are you looking for the Central Intelligence Agency or the Culinary Institute of America? Lots of names can mean different things, and should the browser be reading the user's mind to determine which one it is? Similarly with phone numbers, if you dial 867-5309, should you expect to get Jenny because of that silly song? What you actually get will depend on what area code you're in.

Definition Pan Jeong Lee  –  Oct 03, 2014 4:44 AM PDT

Hi again, Mr Tobias,
Your question is a registration issue, not a definition issue…
If users type Central Intelligence Agency or Culinary Institute of America, they **should be able to** connect directly.
And as you know, the domain name policy is first-come, first-served.

CIA Daniel R. Tobias  –  Oct 03, 2014 5:15 AM PDT

Here are some of the CIAs that managed to be "first come, first served" for various TLDs when I researched it a few years ago (some of those sites have stopped working since):

cia.gov: Central Intelligence Agency
cia.edu: Cleveland Institute of Art
cia.com: Used to be a parody site, now redirects to the site of some Canadian ISP
cia.net: Was Cleveland Internet Association, now just a parking page
cia.co.uk: CIA Worldwide Media Co. (doesn't seem to be functional now)
cia.org.uk: Chemical Industries Association
cia.com.au: Connect Infobahn Australia (seems to be just a menu linking to various other sites)
cia.com.mx: Consultoría Informática Administrativa
cia.ca: Conseillers en informatique d'affaires
cia.fr: Some French company with the initials CIA (seems to just be a parking page now)
cia.de: Cologne Internet Agency (also seems to have turned into a parking page)
cia.ru: Something in Russian
cia.org: Seems to go to a blank page
cia.to: Something in German
cia.nu: Parking page
cia.biz: One of those useless "portal" pages that half the domains on the net have
cia.info: Another of those "portal" pages
cia.us: Reserved by Neustar along with various other government-related names.

The Culinary Institute of America didn't manage to get any of these. So, which CIA deserves to have the extensionless name if typed in an address bar?

trademark law Pan Jeong Lee  –  Oct 06, 2014 2:39 AM PDT

Thanks, Mr Tobias, for the list of domains about CIA. Wow, there are so many!

But is it possible for just anyone to register CIA as a brand name in each country's government?

"CIA” is a well-known & famous name, so every government will reject it.

It is an extreme example. Every country protects well-known&famous;names, like CIA.

My point is, the registered brand name and company name in each government should be protected by the government, even in the internet address bar.

The customers of brand names and company names should be protected by the government, too.

The URL bar is not an embassy. So, the URL bar has no extra territorial rights in each country.

RealNames Keith Teare  –  Oct 02, 2014 8:20 PM PDT

Most of these issues were solved when I had RealNames. (PJ Nice to hear from you, been a long time).

It is fairly easy for a browser to offer choice.

Direct navigation where obvious (Disneyworld Tickets)
Consumer Choice where ambiguous (Delta for example)
Search where obvious (iPad reviews)

This is mainly a UI issue not a political one.

PJ is right that search always is a bad experience. But navigate always is also bad.

In the world we live in today navigation ONLY arises from a URL. It is entirely appropriate for there to be a native language keyword or phrase based system allowing of direct navigation

Customers Pan Jeong Lee  –  Oct 03, 2014 4:24 AM PDT

Keith, ‘glad to hear from you, too! Hope all is well.
It may not “directly” be a political issue, but it is certainly a result of legal system issues in each country. See, brand names and company names are government-registered. So they are protected offline. But in the internet address bar, they are not protected.
These customers of brand names and company names should be protected in the internet address bar by the legal system in each country.
In the internet age, customers and companies meet through both the internet and telephone, but people use the internet more frequently now.
This is why we want to protect the customers – companies should not lose them in the internet address bar.
Moreover, each country has to upgrade – or create – their system for protection of brand and company names in the internet address bar (not in the search bar).
Browser companies and portals have built a cartel with their strong media power. And so, they are abusing many of companies’ rights. Most companies have been deceived already because the companies did not recognize the internet users as their customers in the URL bar. [The companies do not realize they are losing their customers in the address bar (not the search bar)].
For example, some companies spend much more money for the advertising and promotion of their brand name, however, their customers go to the portals (as companies spend money). Is it a fair system?
Another example: Some companies spend much more money for the advertising and promotion of their telephone number, yet their customers go to 411 (operator), not their company's customer centre. Won't there be a problem in the economy?
Keith, just to be clear (probably misunderstood), I respect portals. Portals are very helpful for the people. My point is, URL bar is looking for servers. Search bar is looking for contents. (definition, destination, justice)

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