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Zoo – A Safe Search for Kids

By - November 14, 2006

Picture 1-30Lifted from embargo today by InfoSpace, Inc., Zoo.com offers a child-proof search engine for web research and news. With over 50,000 ‘adult words and phrases’ blocked, the Zoo.com search engine promises to be a kid-safe online research space, and a headache-free solution for parents. With a bit of category and content filtering Zoo pulls results from Google, Yahoo, Wikipedia, Fox New, Yahoo News, and ABC News.

Despite the wildlife in the playful safari motif, as the name reminds us, the contents of this savannah are meant to be tamed. In the spirit of testing the limits (as children are wont to do), however, it took but one guess for Zoo to bring me to a result that Wikipedia describes as ‘sexual’. Admittedly, the youngins probably aren’t that sophisticated, but then– with kids these days, you never know. And that’s the point. But overall, Zoo provides a decent tool for making the worldwide web a safe place to play.

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10 thoughts on “Zoo – A Safe Search for Kids

  1. Kamal Jain says:

    How’s it different than the safe-search feature of the major search engines?

  2. A very interesting site, I think. The Idea of Technometry was new for me but worth to be read and thought abot it (although I’m not a native english-speaker and have some difficulties whith this language)

  3. jbum says:

    I conducted a similar test and my first three tries all produced adult-oriented websites. Quite simply, content-filtering of keywords alone doesn’t work. If this site is also filtering the results received, it is not doing a very good job.

  4. Olaf says:

    Not very much helpful. With the kids so much smart they are today.

  5. Hi, so happy to see Zoo.com mentioned here. I am the product manager for Zoo at InfoSpace so I thought I would chime in to answer your question.
    Zoo employs a two-pronged approach to filtering:
    First, we provide the highest level of category filtering which is similar to what you see on some other sites.
    Second, in addition to that, we run all searches up against a database of over 50,000 adult terms and phrases (we are always adding to this, so Melanie, please feel free to submit the word on our anonymous site feedback tool you found results for so we can add it to the stack http://www.zoo.com/info.zoo/search/help/contact.htm). Any searches that matches a sexually explicit term are given a “search cannot be completed page”. If the search term does not come up in the database, then we bring back non-sexually-explicit results for those terms.
    Unlike other engines, Zoo.com’s filter is permanently fixed, so kids cannot change the settings and parents don’t have to remember to set them. This is key because we know that 75% of kids this age are searching without any filter whatsoever.
    I hope this answers your question and I encourage all to check out the site at http://www.zoo.com.

  6. Kamal Jain says:

    Julie, agreed that kids can’t turn off the safe search feature of zoo.com whereas they can turn off the safe search on other search engines such as live.com.

    But how do you prevent kids to simply search on live.com with safe search feature turned off? That option remains there whether we have zoo.com or not. Kids can always get unfiltered results on other search engines.

    So the safety such as parental control must come from an OS, or may be from a browser but in the latter case it won’t extend to other programs. A website unless it is unique in some sense can’t significantly enhance the safety of kids. Because if a kid wants, the kid could always use another similar website.

  7. security says:

    This is a good, practical idea, and certainly wish them all success in eliminating the Bugs or loopholes.

    As with everything, it needs to be tweaked and optimized.

    For Example do a search for the word… LUST … there were a few questionable sponsor links present.

    But, overall, this is unquestionably, a worthwhile alternative to the reqular Search Engines.

  8. Hi Kamal,

    Kids ages 8 – 13 have a lot of options when they go online. So our goal with Zoo is be compelling both in terms of content and the look of the site.

    To this end, we are working with kids and using market research to continue to improve the product. We are also going to be marketing directly to kids in a way that says, this is a great site for you—you can get what you need here.

    Of course, if kids are deliberately looking for sexually explicit material, they can find it online. What we are aiming to do is provide a place where kids will want to be that excludes this kind of inappropriate material. Indeed, external research shows that many kids find sexually explicit material when they are NOT looking (or wanting) to find it.

    Overall, Zoo should be compelling to kids on the results and interface it provides. That is what we strive for as a company. While we think filtering is very important to ensuring a positive experience for both kids and their parents, we know the driver of kids’ usage will be how much they like what they get from the site.

    As for security, Zoo.com is not meant to replace parental control programs, but rather can complement the use of them.

  9. vertrag says:

    I think these blog is really useful for new comers and Excellent resource list.

  10. Bernhard Heß says:

    Great site! Many useful informations! Thanks.

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