Jumping down the reputation management rabbit hole once again today, I had a great call with Maggie Wells, V.P. of Marketing and Business Development at TrustPlus.
TrustPlus has built the backbone to create communities of trust with completely portable online reputations. The Waltham, MA based company launched in September 2007 with its system to give buyers and sellers the tools to recognize and eliminate fraudulence, assess potential friends, know which reviewers are reliable, and in a dating scenario, protect themselves and others from online predators.
The application provides a customized reputation score in any online scenario through an algorithm that is weighted by a number of criteria, including who the person knows and the context of the interaction.
Online sellers are able to aggregate their reputations in one place and leverage them everywhere they sell online. This allows online sellers to sell more and as Maggie pointed out, at a premium.
TrustPlus currently supports sites like craigslist, LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, eBay, Friendster, and Amazon.
One of the most interesting applications of the tool sited by Maggie was the issue of “Innkeeper Madness” in the travel industry. The solution allows users to get a better understanding of a hotel rating based on real reviews rather than reviews left by people that are in some way connected to the industry or the establishment’s family or friend circle.
TrustPlus is focused on four main verticals:
Online classifieds are notorious for putting fraudulent sellers online. The solution provides users on sites like Craigslist with an opportunity to see ratings left by those who interacted with a seller elsewhere like on eBay.
TrustPlus also specifies the context in which users were rated, which can reflect on more than just business ethics.
After a date, users are able to rate the user through a selected number of criteria. The system is designed to avoid subjective comments but does allow daters to comment on the validity of photos and marital status.
User Generated Content
Reviewers take their reviewing reputation with them and users are able to identify valid reviews and businesses that are rated based on the aggregation of validity from those reviewers.
With the friend-making frenzy and the photos and videos that are sometimes better left unshared, TrustPlus helps users to tier friends giving social networks the basis to build around “permissions”.
Users are able to dispute ratings they feel are unfair, and since anonymous ratings are prohibited, raters who launch unfounded malicious attacks could quickly lose credibility.
The TrustPlus business model has a few levels. Maggie stressed the value of reputation online from a business owners perspective. While TrustPlus is offering the service for free at this time, plans to monetize the profiles are in the making.
Another level of revenue will come form their partnerships with online payment players like BidPay that let classified site users who use TrustPlus accept credit card payments from buyers. As these payment platforms help buyers transact using their credit cards without revealing the card's information to sellers, the marriage seems to work well. Buyers are able to access a seller's reputation and make their purchase with a debit or credit card in one step, while maintaining their privacy and security. TrustPlus earns a revenue share off credit card purchases made through the system.
For times when users are looking for a higher level of security, TrustPlus is partnering with hard identity providers like HonestyOnline and Trufina and will act as a reseller. This gives users access to id validations and criminal background checks.
Since its launch three months ago, TrustPlus has aggregated 500,000 profiles and the tool is generating an average of 100,000 unique users per month. The nature of the product (users reviewing each other) is highly interactive and Maggie is projecting that unique users will hit 10 million per month by the end of 2008.
I can see a number of applications for this tool in the local search space. Rather than focusing resources on closed proprietary systems, it might behoove publishers to look into these types of solutions. Portability is hot these days and what could be more applicable than a reputation?