CompuServe will use a rating system designed by the Recreational Software Advisory Council (RSAC) that is fully compliant with the new Platform for Internet Content Selection specification released this week by the World Wide Web Consortium.
PICS is a protocol that establishes conventions for describing and labeling Web sites based on such criteria as sexual content, violence, or anything else that parents might find objectionable. Webmasters must voluntarily submit electronic forms to organizations like RSAC to receive a rating, but the PICS-compliant designations can then be interpreted by Web browsers or filtering software like Cyber Patrol, which CompuServe distributes free to all its users.
CompuServe is promoting RSAC to its third-party content providers, but several such rating systems, which all measure content somewhat differently, are expected to be available by the end of the year. PICS proponents say such standards are needed to help parents control what their children see, but without imposing arbitrary judgments.
It will be up to the individual browser and filtering software vendors to decide which to support. Microsoft, for one, plans to offer a "Content Advisor" feature in Internet Explorer that will work with any rating system a parent chooses.
Netscape Communications has also agreed to add PICS support its Navigator browser.