Re: HTTP Futures

Marc VanHeyningen (
Wed, 30 Nov 1994 22:38:26 -0500

>> Seems like these schemes would only be workable if an "unrated" page was
>> assumed to be unacceptable and was "blocked" (which it sounds like Brian
>> intended). I wouldn't expect the playboy people, for instance, to
>> willingly rate their pages unless pressured/forced to do so. (Perhaps
>> that's a bad example, since a corporation is associated with that site.
>> I wouldn't expect some individual maintaining a pornographic/erotic web
>> site to use MPAA ratings, and pressuring an individual to do so would be
>> much more difficult.)

Particularly if that individual is in a community where the norms
regarding such material are radically different. All together, say
*World* wide web...

That's likely to be the main problem with such ratings; there is not
necessarily any system of *restrictions* to go along with the ratings.
An NC-17 rating will prevent some theaters from showing a movie, will
prevent some patrons from getting in, will prevent large video stores
from carrying the film, etc. But, on the Internet, nobody knows
you're a voyeur.

>> Another solution might be to have a centralized "rating server" (or
>> several) which a browser might consult before retrieving any page. In
>> this model an author would not have to agree to be rated. Such a
>> browser, however, would require two connections for each retrieval, one
>> to the rating server and one to the origin server.
>Having a centralized rating server is a problem. Since it requires
>somebody to maintain it (read: money has to change hands). Setting
>up such a server is interesting, but then there are issues about
>browsing it, availability, etc...

I'm sure people can come up with money for it. Just take some
existing agency, the Coalition for Family Values and Mom's Apple Pie,
and have them use some catchy slogan ("Taking the obscene billboards
off the Information Highway") to get money from their faithful flock
concerned about moral decay.

Mind you, given the amount of material available on the net, and the
rate at which it is growing or changing, evaluating a meaningful
portion of the net is probably not possible. Instead, they'll
probably have to concentrate more on finding objectionable items and
label them as "bad." What a job. Meanwhile, people will be hamming
it up, putting up pictures of Bambi and getting it rated "G" and
immediately replacing it with something, er, different. (The security
could avoid this, but re-rating every item on the net every time it
changes is impossible.)

Obwww-talk content: This is, of course, just a special case of the
general need to allow people to specify additional information about
pages as annotations and the like. Notes like "I think this page is
stupid" or "The facts stated here are incorrect" or "There are naked
people here" are useful information to have, but we seem little closer
to having them today than we did when the NCSA annotation server first
went online.

Marc VanHeyningen  <URL:>