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February 17, 2006

Microsoft moves in on the Web filtering market

Posted by David Hunter at 9:38 PM ET.

LiveSide has the skinny on the beta of a new Windows Live service called Windows Live Family Safety Settings:

Family Safety Settings is an easy-to-use parental control application that is designed to monitor, control and filter online activity. By creating specific accounts for your children, you can view activity reports showing what websites they have visited and adjust their content filters accordingly.

The technology behind this service is similar to the Windows Vista Family Safety feature…

Beta invitations were being sent out yesterday for this upcoming Windows Live service, which goes by the codename “Vegas” (think Sin City).

Hit the link for more including a screenshot, but despite the praiseworthy objective, a couple of observations immediately come to mind.

First, this is yet another odd candidate for the “Live” moniker. The way these personal filtering programs work is that they install on the user’s machine and get periodic updates of Web site ratings, much like an antivirus program. There’s no Web 2.0 or Web interface of any kind in the deal. Chalk it up as some more “Live” branding confusion.

The second observation lies in the above phrases “these personal filtering programs” and “like an antivirus program.” The personal filtering business already has numerous established players like CYBERsitter, Cyber Patrol, Net Nanny, and more which seem to provide equivalent functionality to the proposed Microsoft offerings. Some like CYBERsitter don’t charge for the periodic updates, others generally do, but it looks very similar to the Windows antivirus software market and it’s a popular category:

More than half of U.S. families with online teens use filtering programs, with more than 12 million copies of such software in use, according to a study conducted last year by the Pew Internet and American Life Project. The report indicated that use of filters in U.S. homes grew 65 percent from four years earlier, as children logged on to the Web in ever greater numbers and the online porn industry continued to flourish.

There’s no word on how much Microsoft is going to charge (if anything) for Windows Live Family Safety Settings or Vista’s Windows Family Safety, but the 800 pound gorilla just showed up and it doesn’t look good for the little players, particularly with the Vista bundling. If the antitrust regulators are getting antsy over OneCare, they ought to get pretty excited over this one.

Filed under Antitrust, Beta and CTP, General Business, Governmental Relations, Legal, OS - Client, Windows Live, Windows Live OneCare Family Safety, Windows Vista

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5 Responses to “Microsoft moves in on the Web filtering market”

  1. Microsoft News Tracker » And then there’s Windows Live FolderShare Says:

    [...] I also have to observe that like Windows Live Family Safety Settings, this is another niche where there are established players (e.g. Laplink, Avvenu) and the 800 pound gorilla has just arrived to squash them with a presumably free service. At least part of Windows Live seems to be taking on the aspect of a squeeze play on the niche software vendors. If the antitrust regulators in the EU and Korea were originally aroused on behalf of competitive multimedia player and instant messaging vendors, it’s not clear why this won’t be another red flag for them. Filed under Coopetition, Legal, Beta and CTP, Google, Governmental Relations, General Business, Antitrust, Windows Live, Windows Live FolderShare Listen to this article   [Permalink] [...]

  2. Microsoft News Tracker » EU watchdogs have their eye on Microsoft Office Says:

    [...] That’s no real surprise since that’s their job, but last month’s complaint was rather more broad-based than just Office and cited bundling as well as interoperability issues. That’s why I continue to observe that all the little niche products (e.g. [1], [2]) that Microsoft is bundling into Vista are making it a target rich environment. As for Office itself, it will certainly be the centerpiece of interoperability complaints. [...]

  3. Free Windows Live Family Safety Settings announced -- Microsoft News Tracker Says:

    [...] This is mostly as rumored with the addition of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) providing age-based guidelines. As I observed previously, say goodbye to the existing players in this niche. The real question is whether there will be a need to say hello to any antitrust watchdogs. Filed under Legal, Governmental Relations, General Business, Antitrust, Windows Live, Windows Live Family Safety Settings, Microsoft Listen to this article   [Permalink] [...]

  4. Predatory pricing of Microsoft’s security products? -- Microsoft News Tracker Says:

    [...] And it’s not just startups. For example, after Microsoft announced the acquisition of Giant Company, a senior executive at a major security company told me that they weren’t going to bother coming out with antispyware functionality, since Microsoft had already made that product free. While that company has since changed their mind, it was a chilling conversation. As I’ve mentioned before in regards to Windows Defender (antispyware), Windows Live Safety Settings, and application transfer applications, there’s no more predatory pricing than free and I can’t help but believe that Microsoft’s heading for another confrontation with antitrust regulators around the world. Filed under OS – Client, Windows Vista, Coopetition, Servers, Security, Legal, Technologies, Viruses and Worms, Governmental Relations, General Business, Antitrust, Spyware, Sybari, Antigen, Symantec, McAfee, Windows Live, Defender, Windows Live Family Safety Settings, Microsoft, Forefront   [Permalink] [...]

  5. Microsoft launches trial version of Windows Live OneCare Family Safety -- Microsoft News Tracker Says:

    [...] The rumored restricted beta of Windows Live OneCare Family Safety turned out to be a public trial offer of the parental control software for Windows XP: You might have heard back in March that we were doing some limited beta testing on parts of a new, free family safety service called Windows Live Family Safety Settings. The features we tested earlier this year represented just a portion of the full service we’re making available today, and we’re excited to announce the release of our new Windows Live OneCare Family Safety public beta available in the US through Hit the link for more details, but for now the trial is USA only. And as surmised, a little rebranding has gone on since the original announcement which isn’t all that bad in this case since this is PC software like Windows Live OneCare and not Web-based like most of the rest of the Windows Live family. Also like OneCare, I would expect that this would eventually be a fee-based service, although there is no mention of that and the above clip has the magic word, “free.” Is it too soon to wave goodbye to the little software companies trying to make a buck in this market or do we wait until Vista comes out with similar functionality built-in? Filed under OS – Client, Windows Vista, Beta and CTP, Windows Live, Windows Live OneCare Family Safety, Microsoft   [Permalink] [TrackBack] [...]

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