Another One Bites The Dust (8/6/01)

Put on a black suit and a somber look, because another arm of Apple's Internet strategy just got lopped off without warning. About a year and a half ago, Uncle Steve rolled out an initiative by which Apple intended to improve the Internet experience both for Mac users and (to a lesser extent) for people using those "other" computers. Apple's four iTools-- iDisk, HomePage, email, and KidSafe-- were billed as Mac-only features, while iCards and iReview provided Internet-based greeting cards and web site reviews to the 'net community at large. iReview got off to a slow start, but after six months of near-zero growth it really started to take off. Unfortunately, after six more months, iReview was unceremoniously canned because, according to an Apple representative, the company was "concentrating [its] efforts around the iTools that [its] customers value most. Specifically, iCards, Email, iDisk, HomePage, and KidSafe."

At the time we recall being a little bummed, and not just because our own five-star iReview vanished into the ether when Apple pulled the plug on the site; we had genuinely grown to like iReview, and had found out about quite a few sites that we otherwise would never have discovered on our own. Moreover, we were a smidge puzzled: Apple discontinued iReview so that it could concentrate on KidSafe? At the time we expressed befuddlement at Apple's decision to axe iReview in favor of its answer to the thorny problem of protecting younger eyes from the seedier side of the 'net. You remember the idea, right? Instead of trying to filter out all the bad stuff (a losing proposition almost by definition), KidSafe only allowed specific pre-approved content through in the first place.

That approach had its pros and cons. The big benefit was that, unlike competing filter-based products, KidSafe really could boast a 100% success rate in preventing kids from accidentally winding up at some site featuring homemade bomb recipes and photos of naked people abusing normally-wholesome foodstuffs in various unsavory and unsanitary ways. The downside was that since KidSafe would only serve data specifically approved beforehand by Apple's stable of overworked teachers and librarians, the vast majority of the 'net (including a ton of perfectly safe and moral educational content) had a big "no access" sign stuck in front of it. Which is why we had never heard of anyone-- seriously, anyone-- who actually used it.

We had a sneaking suspicion that perhaps we've just been associating with debauched and unwholesome people, but as faithful viewer Jeff Campbell notes, if that's the case, then we're all in very good company: Apple has posted an announcement that the company is "discontinuing the KidSafe service due to low customer usage." Evidently Apple's approach to maintaining a kid-friendly 'net was just a wee bit too restrictive for most people. Interestingly enough, after publicly declaring that filter-based systems are inherently ineffectual, Apple is now recommending existing KidSafe users (all six of them) to migrate to Cyber Patrol filtering software. Go figure.

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The above scene was taken from the 8/6/01 episode:

August 6, 2001: First it was iReview; now KidSafe gets the shaft. Meanwhile, Apple struggles with a Memphis suburb's sign ordinance that effective makes Apple's logo illegal to display outside a retail store, and Microsoft bigwig Steve Ballmer wins "Missing Link" status from noted anthropologists worldwide...

Other scenes from that episode:

  • 3222: Hint: It's Not The Pinky (8/6/01)   It just isn't Monday without a little dose of surrealism and opaque bureaucracy, so it's with great pleasure that we submit for your approval Apple's struggle with the Germantown, TN Design Review Commission...

  • 3223: Sweet Lord, Take Us Now (8/6/01)   Be afraid... be very afraid. We're about to point you toward a video clip that contains approximately seventy-three seconds of the most frightening video footage ever captured on tape. Forget the Blair Witch Project; loop this sucker eighty times, strip out the color and toss in a bunch of camera-shake, and we guarantee that twenty percent of every test audience will be throwing up in the bathroom...

Or view the entire episode as originally broadcast...

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