Even as it finalizes plans to carve out a special place on its service to host adult entertainment forums, CompuServe is considering suggestions on how to regulate access to the raunchier corners of the entire Internet.
The current thinking among company officials is to apply to Internet newsgroups the same SafeSurf ratings that categorize the content in CompuServe's adult forums on a scale of 1 to 10. At the same time, CompuServe will maintain the content filtering software that allows parents to control their childrens' access to the service's own content.
"The solution doesn't exist yet, but we'll only restrict access to adult controlled passwords to sites that get assigned ratings of 6 to 10. This becomes complicated, because there are various ways of accessing newsgroups," said one CompuServe executive who requested to remain unidentified.
The online provider intends to establish a rating system by the end of the year. But it faces a formidable task as there are, by some estimates, more than 20,000 newsgroups on the Internet.
"They'll have their hands full, but it's doable," said another CompuServe executive familiar with the plans. Microsystems [the company providing CompuServe with content filtering software] is set up to do it."
"This might be something interesting -- not just for parents -- but also for companies, where CompuServe is well positioned," said Giga analyst Rob Enderle. "It's not a bad idea. Even if it's moderately successful, I expect it to be copied."