Blue Coat will today launch a URL-filtering service to help users block harmful and malicious content. The service, called K9, is being offered to consumers for free and is available here.

More used to providing protection to large enterprises, K9 is Blue Coat's first foray into the consumer market, but, vice president Nigel Hawthorn explained, it isn't in it for the money.

"We are the first generation of internet parents," said Hawthorn, adding that because the service is based on existing technology used in its enterprise products, providing it for free is financially viable.

Once users have signed up to the service, they are able to block more than 55 different categories of content, from malware to pornography. Websites that have already been fitted into these categories will be blocked if the user so wishes, and any page requests made to unknown sites are assessed before K9 allows the page to load.

A Dynamic Real-Time Rating system rates unknown web pages and stores them on Blue Coat's central database, so other users will benefit. As the database is not static, it means that K9 can block even the very latest threats.

Although the service has been available since November, the launch has been kept until today so Blue Coat could check that the service and the support it provides for it were effective, said Hawthorn.

K9 is currently compatible only with Windows 2000 and XP.