July 6, 1998 2:15 PM PDT
AltaVista plans children's area
Although details are scant about the Family Zone, it is expected to launch by fall and will include an updated version of the Net Shepherd Family Search engine. The search engine is offline now, but was designed to filter "inappropriate or objectionable" Web sites based on the review of a panel of diverse Net users.
Last month, AltaVista quietly launched three new content channels or "zones."
AltaVista's other channels, such as its Finance Zone, offer free news and some pay-per-view features. The site has signed up exclusive partners such as ABCNews.com for its zones. AltaVista declined to comment today on future partners for the Family Zone.
The search engine has continued to evolve into a full-fledged Net gateway, although its parent company Digital Equipment merged with Compaq Computer in June. But the site faces tremendous competition in the ongoing portal war.
The children's search space also is overflowing with veterans.
The children's guide also will be featured on Infoseek--in which Disney took a 43 percent stake last month.
AltaVista's Family Zone also will have to compete with Net heavyweight
Sites with hate speech or sexually explicit material or those promoting alcohol use or gambling also are left out of most children-oriented online directories.
Although the White House called on the Net industry in December to create tools for safer surfing, many filtering products don't always keep children out of online red-light districts, and critics say some children's search engines block out content with educational or social value.
According to an Electronic Privacy Information Center study issued in December, the AltaVista-Net Shepherd Family Search blocked out some pages from school Web sites around the country, as well as numerous pages for national organizations' sites, such as the Red Cross.