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N+I: Tool can pinpoint a Web surfer's city, country

N+I: Tool can pinpoint a Web surfer's city, country.

ATLANTA -- Where in the Web are you?

One of the great achievements of the Internet has been its ability to break down walls of geography, placing people from around the world in location-neutral cyberspace.

But the reality is that location does matter on the Web, much as it does everywhere else, said Sanjay Parekh, chief strategy officer with Norcross, Ga.-based Digital Envoy Inc. Companies that operate Web sites need to know what language their users speak. Advertisers want to be able to segment their ads, pitching different products to customers in New York, Paris and Rio.

From a small booth tucked away at the back of the floor at this year's NetWorld+Interop conference, Parekh said he has the solution. And it is one already in use at some of the world's largest Internet companies.

Google Inc., PayPal Inc., AOL Time Warner Inc. and Advertising.com Inc., to name a few, all use Digital Envoy's system. And they all have different needs for it. Google may use it to determine what language to display information in. PayPal may use it to work with credit card companies to verify a user's identity, he said. If someone just made a purchase in Atlanta, it wouldn't be possible for them to be in another city a few minutes later. Advertising companies can use it not only to segment ads but also to track results by location.

Digital Envoy locates a user based solely on his Internet protocol (IP) address and does not provide any more information than the user's city. This, Parekh said, helps to circumvent any privacy concerns, since the user is never identified.

Digital Envoy uses a massive database that the company has built during its three-and-a-half years of existence that is essentially a detailed map of the Internet. Based on the kind of modem the individual is using and the route he took to get to a site, Digital Envoy is able to identify users at the city level with about 95% accuracy. At the country level, the system is more than 99.9% accurate, Parekh said.

Digital Envoy's customers have a replication of the Internet database that they keep on their own systems. The company updates the database once a week.

"This is a system that adds value to things that already exist on the Web," said Parekh.

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