The launch of KidZui could be viewed as just another social network for kids hitting the market, or it could be seen as a victory of real-live people over the mighty algorithm. Time and the company’s success will eventually tell. Over the last two and a half years, KidZui has paid 200 parents and teachers to manually filter the adult Internet, distilling the world wide web down to 500,000 sites appropriate for kids.
The KidZui Internet is accessed through a browser designed by the company to reflect a child’s point of view and levels of interest. The goal is to get parents of kids ages 3 through 11 to sign up for $99 annual plans or $9.95-a-month plans. Those subscription fees (no ads) will support a staff of editors who will monitor where kids want to go outside of the KidZui sites, reviewing and adding those that are appropriate.
It has social components, but KidZui aims to be broader than Webkinz or Club Penguin, both of which have received loads of media attention and have subsequently prompted the launch of dozens of me-too sites. It also seems to allow for a broader web experience than some of the filtering software products out there such as NetNanny and CyberSitter. KidZui’s founders include Clifford Boro, the former chairman of VideoEgg, and is backed by Maveron, the investment fund founded by Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz.
As a parent, I like the idea and am impressed with the various features built into the KidZui browser; it’s something I’d consider signing up for once my kid is old enough. It would still enable her to watch her beloved YouTube videos of babies laughing, and it seems like a fun interface. As a journalist, I’m hopeful that KidZui can make it because it would proving that while technology can certainly help filter information, it can never replace that human touch.