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Summary:

GBrowser, the mythical Google may actually materialize sometime in the distant future, but for now Birmingham, UK-based Glaxstar is building its own GBrowser (as their website tantalizes, “The G****le Web is coming!!”) that hopes to make the web a safer place for the kids under the […]

GBrowser, the mythical Google may actually materialize sometime in the distant future, but for now Birmingham, UK-based Glaxstar is building its own GBrowser (as their website tantalizes, “The G****le Web is coming!!”) that hopes to make the web a safer place for the kids under the ages of 12 and bring some much-needed sanity to their parents.

safeinternetforkids.jpgGlaxstar is the brainchild of Ian Hayward, father of three, who wanted to build a safe web experience for his own kids, keeping them away from all the nefarious stuff on the Internet, but without complex software installs, or spending hours on tech-support. Since Glaxstar did custom development around Firefox for clients, he decided perhaps the best way to achieve this simple security was to write a special plugin for Firefox, that is remote controlled by the parents.

With that in mind he started working on a product that is code named, TGW. It is a free Firefox plugin, that turns Firefox into a multiuser browser and ties it into Glaxstar’s backend infrastructure. The entire family can have their own sign-ons for the browser, and get their own personalized settings. The kids can click on their names and basically are given access to content and the web that has been pre-approved by the parents.

If a child wants to go to an unapproved location, a small message pops up on mom or dad’s browser (which also has a TGW plugin installed), and they can approve (or decline) the “visit.” “We work on a white list concept, and everytime a parent approves the site, then we can put it in a white list, just like email,” says Hayward. The plugin can also throttle the Google search results, and strip out the ads. Google might recoil at the thought of search result manipulation, but come on — what 10-year-old is really going to click on an ad?

“Parents, in order to approve the search, will actually see the full results of a search so there is no loss to Google,” says Hayward, who has thus far bootstrapped his company. The plugin-service combo stores all the relevant information on a server, making it relatively easy to get access to saved settings from different locations, as long as the plugin is installed in the browser.

In case of really young kids, say 5- to 7-year-olds, Hayward says, search boxes, browser and navigation bars are disabled – instead replaced by snapshots of the pre-approved pages such as Disney.com or Nick.com. The server side functionality also allows parents to create pre-approved social networks with some limited chat messaging features.

“Think of TGW as a web within the web that can be personalised and controlled by the family network,” says Hayward. TGW will be really useful when the plug-in is bundled with Firefox as a default download. It is something Mozilla Foundation should do, because it really hammers home the “safe browser” concept they have been touting for so long.

The biggest challenge for Glaxstar will be convincing people to get Firefox. Most people click on the Internet Explorer icon on their desktops to get to the web. It would be prudent for the company to not restrict itself to Firefox, if it wants mainstream parents to start using their service. Of course, Hayward has to also figure out a business model for his service, because if it works as demoed, it can get quite popular with worried parents. (And you know what we really think of FREE!)

While I don’t have kids, I do certainly see my siblings using this browser-modification to keep the web safe for their children. Of course people with children might have a more worthy opinion on this service. What I really found most impressive about the service/plug-in was the fact that it is simple, and elegant and non-intrusive – both for the kids and the parents. It is worth trying – worst case scenario, you might end up with a copy of Firefox. Nothing wrong with that.

  1. Now we are talking :)

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  2. Firefox has gained a share of one third of the market. They should have it working on IE as well, but a product solely for Firefox isn’t that bad.

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  3. Sounds like something I’d like to try out. The thing about kids is – they’re pretty resourceful and tech savvy – as young as they may be. My daughter (17 mos.) already has the layout of my laptop figured out and will not leave it alone when it’s in sight – regardless of whatever Dora, Winnie the Pooh, Elmo, Barney the Dino toys you offer her. The way I see it, as good as this service/product might be, it’s not an “out”. I’m already bogged in guilt for letting the TV babysit on occasion. I worry the acceptance of a “safe” web will only lead to parents directing less of their attention and energies to meaningful time with their kids. It’s always best to sit down and surf together, share experiences however short and sweet.

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  4. This is the equivalent to locking the door but leaving the windows open. (No IE puns intended).

    If you want parental controls, the only real way to do it is to restrict access at the OS level, even better is on the router itself.

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  5. [...] Building a Safer Web with GBrowser “a free Firefox plugin, that turns Firefox into a multiuser browser and ties it into Glaxstar’s backend infrastructure. … The kids can click on their names and basically are given access to content and the web that has been pre-approved by the parents (tags: kids internet browser firefox glaxstar parents parentalcontrols gbrowser) [...]

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  6. Seems like a good move, providing access and oversight that would address the concerns of conservatives and liberal alike.

    The right “branding” to PTA-like orgs with simple setup instructions (including setting the default browser) should easily overcome the Firefox adoption “issue”.

    I’ll help with the online viral marketing!

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  7. [...] is deeply involved in this Ian Hayward project – a SAFE BROWSER – read all on GigaOm. I love you Ian – for once I can explain to my mom what we have done – and it wil make the web [...]

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  8. Hi I’m never sure what goes on in the Windows world but we solve the problem on our Macs by

    giving our daughter her own user identity (she LOVES this idea, customises the screen etc)

    setting Safari in safe mode, ANY site she vistits has to be white listed by the administrator, me.

    Not difficult
    Or am I missing something?

    R

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  9. Matt, the concept will work for small kids. My 7 y.o. needs just that much to limit her from exposure by accident.

    I don’t quite understand how it works though. It mentions the parents get a pop-up to approve the link out. Does it mean parents have to alway be online for this to work?

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  10. As far as I understand, it’s much better than the safari white list.

    Am I getting the right impression or not?

    So, you somehow install it, set your user identity, and one for your daughter as well. She browses just as in safari white list, but the nice part is that if she gets to a site that is not allowed, she can ask you for immediate access if you are around…But in case you are not around, she can send you a request. If you are “logged in” somewhere (your office), you can accept it or deny it, since you receive a notification on your browser…I guess the notification is pretty much like a dialog or something nicer, that pops up suddenly when your daughter sends it. But if you are not online … you receive an email. Anyway, you receive the notice..it’s not a big deal for a kid to wait a few hours I guess. Worst case you daughter can give you a call and ask you to check your email, don’t you think?

    My niece doesn’t read, and likes the nick web page though. She won’t be able to browse herself even with a white list…she can NOT read => she can NOT type. So, the safari solution is NOT an option. Looks like the images is a nice idea, I guess she will certainly recognize the cookie monster image LOL.

    I can’t wait to try it.

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