How much do you trust the ratings and reviews that you see online? Last week, I decided to try out one of the top-rated restaurants in Tel Aviv according to TripAdvisor. I am not going to call out this restaurant...but it’s called Shakshukia and it’s rated as the number 12 restaurant in Tel Aviv. Not too shabby. Shakshukia specializes in what some would call the quintessential Israeli brunch – shakshuka, eggs poached in a thick tomato sauce full of vegetables and spices, and occasionally meat and cheese.
Let me put it this way: Shakshukia may serve shakshuka, but no Israeli that I know would ever go to Shakshukia to order it. So where were all the top ratings coming from? How could a restaurant with hundreds of positive reviews be such a letdown? Are the people rating these restaurants even real? How can I truly know?
I know this is getting kind of existential, but seriously guys, we all want to be able to trust the internet community when it comes to making online purchases or taking any type of advice.
And the fact of the matter is that today, there just isn’t a system in place that can really ensure our trust. From fake bots to people getting paid to write positive comments and reviews, sometimes it feels like the internet is a cheating spouse. You love it and you hate it. You want to feel secure, but there’s just something a little bit off.
Today, there are massive loopholes with online reputation systems, largely because of the lack of strong verification and social credit tools in place. Vendors and internet users can create tons of different accounts for different platforms to leave multiple ratings. Think about it – any user with a bad rating can just open up a new account and leave a positive review.
Plus, businesses with positive reputations are susceptible to competitors leaving unverified, negative ratings. How do we control this?
It all comes down to decentralization, and blockchain technology could alter everything we know today about online reputations. It could restore our trust.
Stop tearing up, this isn’t about your marriage.
Let’s start off with identity. Blockchain technology can offer complete transparency on transactions, reviews, and interactions between vendors and consumers. Best of all, it is able to do so while preserving the privacy of every individual involved. Blockchain platforms like Ontology, Fnatom, and Utu are currently working on creating these distributed trust collaboration platforms. Blockchain makes it almost impossible to open multiple accounts because your identity must be verified through an array of personal documents, from social security numbers to passport IDs to birth certificates. That also helps eliminate the issue of creating multiple accounts from which to rate online businesses. Even if people don’t know your actual name, you will always have the same wallet number in place, identifying who you are across various blockchain platforms.
Back to the issue of decentralization. Let’s take a look at an organization like TripAdvisor. TripAdvisor is the authority that holds autonomy over every single rating and comment that is left on the site. That means that if your review of a restaurant or service may seem a little too, shall we say, intense... well, TripAdvisor can take it down. That’s no fair! On the blockchain, every interaction, transaction, and in this case rating, cannot be changed. It’s on the blockchain for all of eternity, whether or not somebody else likes it. No manipulating my review of Shakshukia.
And what about reputation? Well, a decentralized blockchain system has the ability to discern the credibility of content once the right program is put in place. Since logged data cannot be altered, people who may want to check out how involved you are in rating other businesses online will have full transparency across the board. Reputation indicators will also enable users to decide who they want to engage with, or just totally avoid. Because the truth of the matter is, if you’re an asshole online, you probably don’t have that many internet buddies or people that even want to hear what you have to say.
Imagine being able to trust again. Or to even just call out those anonymous online haters for just how nasty they actually are. That’s the future that blockchain tech can finally provide us.
*Breathes a sigh of long lost, pathetic, and hopeful relief.*