PICS Picks Up Steam

America Online, AT&T, CompuServe, Microsoft, MicroSystems, NetNanny, Netscape, NewView, Prodigy, Providence Systems, Recreational Software Advisory Council, SafeSurf, SurfWatch Announce PICS Strategies

World Wide Web's Creator Sees PICS Becoming Worldwide Platform for Rating System Development In Next 12 Months

Contact:        Brian Ek        Daniel Weitzner  Heather McLellan
                (914)448-8811   (202)637-9800    (617)520-7037
                ek@prodigy.com  djw@cdt.org      hmclellan@webergroup.com
CAMBRIDGE, MA -- March 14, 1996 The Platform for Internet Content Selection (PICS) developed by MIT's World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is ready for prime-time. That's the consensus of a growing group of U.S. organizations and companies which announced plans to integrate the new content labeling platform into their Internet access control strategies.

"PICS has completed an incredibly quick eight-month ramp-up, going from a drawing-board promise to marketplace reality," said Albert Vezza, Associate Director of the MIT Laboratory for Computer Science, and member of the PICS Steering Committee. "These announcements mean that, by early summer, any parent, using any popular Web browser or major commercial online service connected to the Internet, will have their choice of PICS-compatible rating systems for controlling their children's access to Internet content. Some of those systems will be available at no charge."

Meanwhile, based on PICS' accelerated domestic implementation, Tim Berners-Lee, Director of the W3C, and original inventor of the World Wide Web, predicted that, within the next 12 months, PICS will become the global technical platform on which most access control systems are built.

The W3C is the body responsible for developing common protocols and reference codes for the evolution of the Web. PICS was developed by the W3C as a practical alternative to global censorship of the Internet. PICS is not a rating service. It is a technical platform that empowers any individual, group or organization to develop their own rating systems, distribute labels for Internet content, and create label-reading software and services to give users control over access to Internet content.

It is the mission of the PICS group to encourage creation of the broadest possible variety of rating systems and services, representing a robust diversity of viewpoints. The PICS platform is now on the Web at http://www.w3.org/pub/WWW/PICS/ and is available at no charge.

Specific company and organization PICS announcements include:

The W3C said that more browser companies, online services, access control companies, publishers and third parties are currently working on PICS-compatible strategies, and those will be announced in the near future.

"With so much new content being added to the Internet daily, it is impractical, and certainly not desirable, for any government to attempt to control or censor that flow," said Berners-Lee. "The practical, workable solution is to give end-users the tools to control what ultimately flows into their homes. This non-censorship approach works not only on a national, but on a global basis as well. I'm encouraged by the rapid acceptance and deployment of the PICS platform in the U.S. If this trend continues at the international level, PICS could become a global platform in the next 12 months, and hopefully allay governments' desires to censor this incredible growing medium that is the Internet."

Thirty-nine companies and organizations are supporting the PICS initiative. They are: Adobe Systems, Inc.; Apple; America Online (AOL); AT&T; Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT); CompuServe; Delphi Internet Services; Digital Equipment Corporation; First Floor; First Virtual Holdings Incorporated; France Telecom; FTP Software; IBM; Industrial Technology Research Institute of Taiwan; Information Highway Parental Empowerment Group (IHPEG); Information Technology Association of America (ITAA); Interactive Services Association (ISA); MCI; Microsoft; Microsystems, Inc.; MIT/W3C; Netscape Communications Corporation; Net Nanny, Ltd.; NewView; Open Market; O'Reilly and Associates; NCD; NEC; Prodigy Services Company; Progressive Networks; Providence Systems/Parental Guidance; Recreational Software Advisory Council (RSAC); SafeSurf; SoftQuad, Inc.; Songline Studios; Spyglass; SurfWatch Software; Telequip Corp.; Time Warner, and Viacom's Nickleodeon.

PICS is organized into three committees. The Steering Committee is composed of Albert Vezza, Associate Director of the MIT LCS; Dr. James S. Miller, Research Scientist with MIT's computer lab; Dr. Paul Resnick, Member of the Technical Staff, AT&T Bell Laboratories; Daniel J. Weitzner, Deputy Director of the Center for Democracy and Technology; and Brian R. Ek, Vice President of Government Affairs for Prodigy. The PICS Technical Committee is co-chaired by Miller and Resnick. The PICS Public Policy/Communications Committee is co-chaired by Weitzner and Ek.

The W3C is located at the MIT Laboratory for Computer Science (LCS) in Cambridge, MA, and at the Institut National de Recherche en Informatique et en Automatique (INRIA) in Rocquencourt, France.