Glaxstar, a software developer that makes plug-ins for Firefox, has crafted a specialized extension for the Web browser that helps parents keep their kids in a safe Web-surfing sandbox.
The software, called Glubble (for global bubble), is essentially a white list, or collection of pre-approved sites, for the Web browser. By downloading the Firefox plug-in, parents can control their kids' experience online by choosing which sites they can visit and with whom they can chat. Designed for children under 12, the browser extension filters out all other sites, and maintains personalized preferences for parents and individual children. It even offers a version of Google that searches only the pre-approved sites.
Glubble, a free download, will launch in beta form on Tuesday. During test mode, the community of Mozilla Firefox developers can try out the software, build personalized sets of kid-friendly sites, and recommend changes for the plug-in, according to company CEO and co-founder Ian Hayward.
"The browser is the indirect touch-point of the Web. This is putting kids' experience of the Internet directly into family's hands," Hayward said. "There's no configuration of software that resides on the desktop."
Kids-safety experts say that browser software like this can be helpful for younger children, but for savvy preteens, it could turn out to be false security.
"At some point, kids need to be given a longer leash with guidance so they can develop critical thinking skills and get training to be safer as they get older," said Larry Magid, founder of Safekids.com. "Also, a savvy 11-year old could just launch Internet Explorer."
Glubble's early investors include Skype backer Morten Lund. Glaxstar, based in the United Kingdom, has built Firefox plugins for such sites as del.icio.us, PayPal and eBay.