Arriba Soft's porn-free picture search
Control what your kids (and you) see when you do Web searches.
November 16, 1998
by Eric Brown
(IDG) -- The Web is awash in pictures, but many are inappropriate for business presentations, let alone homework assignments. Arriba Soft, maker of the Arriba Express media management program, can help you narrow your search with a free image search site that filters out pornography. Arriba Vista is aimed not only at Arriba's core market of graphics designers, but also at businesses and schools.
With Arriba Vista, you type in keywords to view pages of large thumbnails. Clicking on the image brings up a larger version complete with statistics. An advanced option lets you can refine a keyword search by specifying the type (photograph, graphic, or animation), image size, file size, and color or gray scale. Various category-based search alternatives are provided, including a picture dictionary. If your search comes up empty, you can ask Arriba Soft technicians to go search for it directly and report back to you within 24 hours.
Although you don't need Arriba Express ($149.95) to download images, the site is optimized for Express. Images are automatically placed into a folder for Express users, and Express lists the keywords and the source URL.
From each picture, you can link directly to the source site where the image is located. Most of the images are free for educational projects and in-house presentations, but users are encouraged to ask source sites for permission.
Similar image search engines can be found on most major search sites, but most return text descriptions rather than thumbnails. While some offer kid-safe image searches, it's generally an option rather than the default. One site that does offer both porn filters and thumbnail results is Alta Vista's new AV Photo Finder service, which Compaq developed together with Virage. While in some ways more sophisticated than Arriba Vista, and providing access to up to 10 million images instead of Arriba Vista's 1.5 million, AV Photo Finder may not meet the criteria of schools because it allows you to switch to an unfiltered search.
"We made a business decision to be pornography free," said John Treacy, vice president of marketing at Arriba Soft. "Some pure Net types will view this as a violation of free speech, but we want to use this for educational markets."
Arriba Soft uses a combination of techniques to keep out the estimated 40 percent of Web images that are pornographic, including putting 11,000 porn sites off-limits and continually updating a list of some 1100 keywords that porn publishers use to lure people into visiting their sites. Arriba Soft is counting on support from business people as well.
"A lot of businesspeople have told us they're tired of sifting through all the pornographic clutter when looking for images," says Treacy.
One interesting application has emerged from businesspeople who need to request art for a presentation or report, but have trouble explaining what they want. "Some people are using this not to copy the picture, but as a starting point when talking to a graphic designer," said Treacy.
According to Treacy, the search engine will gradually expand its potential search results, with 4 million images expected to be available by mid-January. Next year the site will expand beyond recognizing basic animation file types to retrieving multimedia formats such as Shockwave.
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