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New Technologies Help Assess Quality of Content on the Web.

Whereas hackers used to say 'information wants to be free', longtime web surfers know that 'information wants to be wrong', where not actually libelous. Two ambitious young companies hope to address the web's credibility deficit. Factpoint's Content Certification Suite stamps web pages with electronic watermarks, indicating that the content has been certified authentic, accurate and up-to-date. "These visual indicators provide online visitors with visual proof that they can trust what they're reading," the company says.

If content is tampered with, the software automatically invalidates the content certificate. As an example of the type of problem Burlington, Massachusetts-based Factpoint could solve, CEO and CTO Jothy Rosenberg cited the recent case of a web site that fraudulently claimed to be from Bloomberg. "Without the ability to verify the authenticity of this content, many investors naively assumed it was legitimate," Rosenberg pointed out. If Bloomberg press releases were routinely certified and watermarked, even foolish investors might have noticed that something was up.

Meanwhile, Third Voice Inc is tackling the problem of online credibility in a more open way. The Redwood City, California- based company has unveiled a browser-companion service that creates inline notes to be pasted onto web pages. The notes might be private - a memo to job the surfer's own memory when he or she revisits a site, for example - or public, as with a warning that a press release is faked or a company's product is no good.

"In designing Third Voice, we aimed to revive the original spirit of the internet," said CEO and co-founder Eng-Siong Tan, "namely, that of open expression and sharing of ideas. Third Voice promotes equal rights of expression on the web for readers and authors alike. We give page visitors the ability to build active communities of discussion on any page, so that the open sharing of ideas started by authors can now be completed by the open expression and sharing of ideas among readers."

It's a noble ideal, but there's no word on how or whether the company intends to keep the tone of the public notes civil. The prospect of a web as noisy and opinionated as your average discussion board is enough to make any web surfer's heart sink.
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Publication:Computergram International
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 18, 1999
Words:367
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