Learned from ICRA

What we learned from ICRA


Some veterans of age classification for websites may remember the old ICRA tags. ICRA was created by the “Internet Content Rating Association”. The age rating system had only a low level of success and unfortunately ultimately failed. In 2010 the ICRA website went offline. The ICRA organisation was renamed FOSI (Family Online Safety Institute) and deals with other subjects than age rating for the internet.

It’s too bad that ICRA failed. But thanks to ICRA we have learned from the failure how to do it better with age.xml.


  • ICRA tags (HTML meta tags) had to be installed on every single HTML page. That’s a lot of work even though most websites containing content for adults (e.g. porn) have one age rating for the entire web. age.xml is (in most cases) a short XML file at the root of the public htdocs folder, and all existing and coming pages are covered
  • ICRA tags were not human-readable (e.g. “na1 nc1 vf1 lu0” etc.) and quite complicated. After a while, ICRA was changed and the RDF standard became even more difficult to understand – so that webmasters were not willing to install it. age.xml works with readable clear XML files that even webmasters without in-depth technical knowledge can understand.
  • ICRA worked only with content descriptors and had no numeric age ratings. The vocabulary changed over time (which honestly was not bad) – a showstopper for implementation in parental control systems. age.xml works with mandatory numeric age ratings and optional content and feature descriptors (MIRACLE standard).
  • ICRA provided just the vocabulary and (in the beginning) no working software. After a while there was a software, but use of it significantly slowed down the surfing experience – a major barrier for dissemination. age.xml already has a free-to-use software working.
  • ICRA tried to be the only solution for web filtering. But it was unrealistic to get so many webmasters involved and labels installed in a short time in order to have good filtering results for parents. age.xml is intended to be used in combination with filter lists to secure good filter results. age.xml provides better quality of filtering, but needs to be combined with good lists for satisfying results. This is how Parental Control Tools work today.

If you would like to know more: Phil Archer, the “frontman” of ICRA for many years, wrote about the failure and his experience. Click here.


Your part to learn from ICRA

One learning from IRCA is up to you as a content provider or webmaster: many age classification labels need to be installed to make the system a success. That’s your part, please. Parents and policy makers will thank you very much.