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AltaVista dumps community services for searches

PC World

(IDG) -- AltaVista closed down all its interactive community services based on a business decision and not because of an unfavorable review by the Children's Advertising Review Unit of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, the company says. The review concluded the Web portal was not complying with child-advertising and privacy guidelines.

"Our removal of those features was because we have become focused on search for consumers and businesses, and those features were not in line with our goals," says company spokesperson David Emanuel. INFOCENTER
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Since September, the company has gradually been shutting down certain community services, Emanuel says. Services such as chat rooms, photo albums, and Web building capabilities were eliminated during the past three weeks, he says.

AltaVista would not disclose the cost savings associated with eliminating the community services other than to say it was a "huge cost," according to Emanuel. A third-party vendor was used to host its chat rooms.

"Ninety-three percent of all activities starts with a search," Emanuel says. "Despite our best attempts to add those (community) features, our users want search."

Approximately nine months ago, AltaVista formalized selling its search technology to companies and has an estimated 1,000 corporate clients, including the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation and Central Intelligence Agency, AltaVista spokesman Jim Shissler says. AltaVista, which is owned by Internet holding company CMGI, has 600 employees, with the bulk of them focusing on search software and Internet search services.

During the time that AltaVista was deciding to shutter its online community services, CARU commenced a review of the company's Web site and its compliance with guidelines set by CARU and the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act that mandate prior parental permission before site operators can collect personally identifiable information from children under 13 years old, says Phyllis Spaeth, senior staff attorney for CARU.

CARU officials found that AltaVista's site failed to comply with CARU and COPPA guidelines. They found that the use of registration language on the AltaVista site encouraged children under 13 years old to misstate their ages. They also learned that AltaVista failed to adequately prevent children from accessing chat rooms with "adult only" content, Spaeth says.

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AltaVista Co.
Children's Advertising Review Unit

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