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Home pages to unite families

In an effort to capitalize on the hot home-page market, online community KOZ launches a service to unite families on the Web.

In an effort to capitalize on the hot home-page market, online community developer KOZ today launched a service that aims to unite extended family members into one locale on the Web.

The service, called Family Shoebox, allows groups to design and organize their home pages and interact using a number of technology tools. Once pages are built, community members can communicate using threaded discussions or plan events with an online calendar.

Each "homesteader" family can designate a group administrator to manage the site and can decide whether to keep the site public or private. As one privacy measure, the administrator can decide who can or cannot receive publishing access.

KOZ plans to introduce email to the service next week and chat by year's end. Family Shoebox will allow Web properties to adopt its technology and create a cobranded page or simply reside in a channel.

The introduction of Family Shoebox comes during a high in the community-building market. GeoCities today achieved its initial public offering, where its stock has skyrocketed since racing out of the gates this morning.

Meanwhile, WhoWhere was acquired today by Lycos for $133 million in stock, giving the Web portal exclusive ownership over home page builders Angelfire and Tripod.

Many of the top Web portals are following Lycos's lead and beginning to focus more heavily on including community sites, such as home page builders.

Excite and Infoseek are developing community builder services.

And online giant America Online rolled out a beta version of its own home page site, dubbed Hometown AOL.

Analysts and observers tout community builders because they increase retention and loyalty, giving sites more reliable bases to serve advertisements.

A study released yesterday by research firm Media Metrix found that community sites are among the fastest-growing sites on the Web.