If finding a way to control what kids see on television and movies, hear on CDs and play on video games seems daunting, try controlling what they access over the Internet.
Not only is the content of the actual Web site at issue, there is the problem of who and what is being advertised on the site, then the question of what is going on at other sites that visitors can link to.
These are some of the issues that a Burbank-based firm and three of its rivals are grappling with as they apply to become registrars and hosts of a new category of web addresses ending with ".kids."
.Kids Domains Inc. in Burbank, along with Falls Church, Va.-based DotKids Inc., Palm Desert-based Blueberry Hill Communications Inc. and ICM Registry Inc. in Toronto, have each shelled out $50,000 hoping to become the gatekeeper of the new domain name, which would join the now-ubiquitous dot-com address on the Internet.
Applications, due earlier this month, were submitted to the Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and are currently going through a public comment period. ICANN, the Marina del Rey-based group that hands out Internet addresses, has said it plans to add only a few new domain names, and dot-kids may not even be among them. (A decision is expected by the end of the year.)
If it is, however, the right to the registry would likely be a windfall for the winning company. By one estimate, more than 12 million companies and groups would seek to register names in the dot-kids space within the first few years of operation. Even at nominal registration fees for the address, that could amount to billions in revenues even before annual registration renewals are figured into the equation.
Each of the applicants claims that providing a dot-kids address would give children a sort of safe-haven, cyberspace park, free from inappropriate subject matter. And, of course, it would give companies and groups seeking to target children automatic brand recognition as a kids' site.
"I have two young daughters and two stepsons, and we see what's out there," said Page Howe, chairman of .Kids Domains Inc. "We're just creating a separate place that parents can depend on to abide by a certain set of rules."
Howe said the company has already spent about $150,000 on its application, including legal and other fees. If approved, Howe expects to ante up another $500,000 from his private investment partnership for the venture. He has also lined up another $10 million from ZA Associates, a New Jersey investment banking firm.
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