OPW INTERVIEW -- Mar 24 -- What's your online reputation? Wouldn't it be nice if you could bring your good reputation together into one place to show it off. TrustPlus can help. - Mark Brooks
What is TrustPlus?
Trust Plus is a Webwide Reputation System. We allow people to aggregate their reputations from online communities and take them with them, wherever they go on the net, whether they’re buying, selling, dating, chatting, researching or blogging. We’ve built a platform that enables sites to use TrustPlus as their feedback system, but what’s really cool is that users can bring their reputation built elsewhere into the site. Just imagine – now you can take your eBay reputation and use it to sell more stuff on craigslist, Amazon, anywhere else you sell.
Walk me through how the process works.
Your reputation is based on three key components: behavior, context and network, and it includes explicit and implicit behavioral information. Your feedback on EBay is an example of explicit behavior. You bought something from me, and I explicitly rated you AAA+++. Implicit behavior would come from a site like Wikipedia. Let’s say you are Joe72314 on Wikipedia. We base our rating on a number of factors such as how long your edits stick around.
But behavioral data is just one piece of the equation. Just because you’re the world’s best seller of refurbished cell phones, doesn’t mean I should trust your hotel reviews.. And just because I’ve had a good experience with you doesn’t mean that everybody else in the world is going to love you. So we look at the weight you carry on the network. It may be the case that I’m not very well trusted on our shared network. Therefore, my opinion of you isn’t going to carry much weight. So what we’re really doing is building some interesting data based on people who know you and the people who know them. Finally, people can add to their reputations through background checks and other services.
So how would TrustPlus be used on a dating site or a social network?
The dating sites that we’re talking to want to be able to leverage a 3rd party rating process to allow people to rate each other. So a user will go out on a date and afterwards will be able to rate the person that they dated. What really matters in the dating world is truthfulness - did they look like their picture or was their marital status correct; that sort of jazz.
It strikes me that there’s major potential for abuse here. In the dating business, I can be a perfectly nice person and go out with another perfectly nice person and we can clash like cats and dogs and one of the parties could get very vindictive. How do you prevent that?
We’re not per se in the business of policing what people say about each other. You might have a valid opinion and there’s absolutely no way that I can tell whether your opinion is valid realistically speaking.
So what is important is that the system is architected so that if people don’t behave well, their opinions don’t matter much. If I say you are the biggest jerk that ever walked the face of the earth, my opinion only matters if somebody trusts me. If the network doesn’t trust me, my rating of you isn’t going to be very important. So applying the whole networking component to this exercise really helps to isolate people who behave badly to everyone.
What’s your revenue model? Does the consumer pay or does the site pay?
It’s actually a bit varied. Some of the dating sites that we’re working with are planning to offer ratings as a premium service so when you search for that 5’ 11” blond haired, blue eyed woman, the people with good reputations will bubble to the top of the results list and the people who don’t have good reputations might not even show up on the list. Some sites want everybody to have access to the reputation data and we would drive revenue by selling other value-added services.
Where do you see the online reputation industry going in the next 5 years?
The reputation business barely exists, so doing a 5-year projection might require a little more fortitude than I’m willing to do at this point in time. But I’m happy to share my opinions. Today reputations are very vertically siloed. You may have a stellar rating on eBay, but be a jerk on a dating site. The two reputations never meet. I think that 18 months from now people will be amused with the fact that there used to be these big silos of reputational information that you had no access to and no control over. Three years from now I don’t think we’ll do anything online without some understanding of the people that we’re working with, dating, talking to or buying or selling with. So I think there will be a reputation layer of the Internet that develops just like there will be a social graph layer and there will be identity layers. All of those will be horizontal; all of those will be owned by the end user; and they will be pervasive.