Web 2.0 Content Filtering

If you’ve participated in online forums, you’ve probably had theNSFW (Not Safe For Work) experience: Someone posts a link tosomething NSFW without adding appropriate warnings ordisclaimers – either as a blatant troll, or withoutconsidering varied tastes and situations (e.g. someone sitting intheir underwear at home posts a link to a questionable “funny”video that others are blindly opening in their workplace). Oftenthe URL is obscured and indecipherable courtesy of “helpful”services like http://tinyurl.com/

Web 2.0 tothe rescue!

Through the magic of collaboration and the power ofmany eyes making all troll/porn/questionable sitesshallow, I propose an innovative new web service that allowsusers to add URLs, or whole domains, indicating the degrees andtypes of questionable content, perhaps using the power of folksonomyto tag the URLs. They can add descriptions using a Wiki-styleinterface, all powered by an AJAX-richDHTML web application. Think http://del.icio.us/ +http://www.flickr.com + http://www.wikipedia.com +http://www.netnanny.com/.

Via an exposed open-API XML web service, an extension forFirefox can be created that would allow work users to browse moresafely, as it automatically validates all URLs through the NSFWservice, blocking or warning on potentially questionable content.For those who worry about the privacy ramifications of having allURLs auto-validated, they could manually validate select URLs, orperhaps download the latest “Current Widely Seen NSFW Websites”filter list and use that in their browser extension.

Sounds good, doesn’t it Any VCs out there ready to send me somestart-up capital I’m thinking in the 7-figures range.

Of course in actuality I think it would be a disaster. Not onlyis it the sort of service that most people wouldn’t pay a penny for(yet without a large userbase you can’t have useablecommunity-driven rankings, and of course you can’t have aprofessional taxonomy classification of the sites without revenue,as that costs real money), there are limited ancillary revenueoptions (it’d just be a tiny service that people use almostunconsciously – there is no stickiness). Until it gets a largeuserbase – which it is doubtful that it ever would as auser-contributed service –  it would suffer from significantfalse-negatives through exclusion as well, not to mention that itcould be easily gamed to cause false-positives.

A classic chicken-egg problem.

On top of that, varying scales of puritanism, as well astrolling with the site itself, would lead to extraordinarypollution of the database. You could try some sort of web-of-trustwith relationships and personal networks, for instance onlytrusting rankings coming from those you trust (or who people youtrust trust, and so on) but again that would vastly limit the scopeof applicable NSFW rankings, rendering it close to useless for allbut the most common of links.

[I should also note that people were tossing around ideas forcollaborative, community-driven rankings of websites over adecade ago. The idea of community-driven content is hardly new.What is new is that people think they can build a revenue model onit, largely on the back of Google’s innovative and prolificAdsense]