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Disney grows family tree

Walt Disney takes another big step into cyberspace with the relaunch of family.com, an online guide about family life.

Walt Disney (DIS) took another step into cyberspace today with the relaunch of a Web site called family.com, an online guide about family life.

The free site features articles and other information focusing on education, family activities, food, travel, and computing. It also includes chat rooms, bulletin boards, and regional listings. Users will also be able to customize content depending on their interests.

"We plan to offer a growing service aimed at providing comprehensive, current, easy-to-access information about all areas of family life," a message on the site reads, "from what to make for dinner to how to treat a child with the flu."

Disney's foray into the online world is being watched with much interest because of its breadth and long-standing reputation for creating popular content. As previously reported by CNET, Disney recently launched an online store and is quietly laying plans to launch a fee-based online service, complete with Net access and "D-mail," Disney's version of email, early next year.

Disney's technology partners, such as Netscape and Next, also stand to benefit from the online expansion.

The family.com site will be supported by advertising. One advertisement, a "family software buyer's guide," lists products from The Learning Company, Cloud 9 Interactive, and PrintPacs.

Disney's move into the family online market comes as some others are retreating. CompuServe announced last month that it will close its flagging Wow service on January 31. Wow, launched earlier this year as a service for families and new Net users, has 102,000 subscribers.

Disney is still expected to face stiff competition from the likes of America Online and Microsoft Network.