The Era of Decentralization

The digital age has completely changed the way we interact and live. This is especially true for the early 2000s. Borders were transcended by digital avenues. Tim Berners-Lee – the World Wide Web inventor – finally saw his dream of  “a place where we all meet and read” come true. E-commerce and social networking exploded. Any Utopian visions of cyberspace soon died though, with the centralization of many services that took away that true sense of freedom early internet users experienced.
However in today’s world, new technologies such as blockchain technologies are powering a movement away from the centralization of services. Social media, blogs and any peer-to-peer services can technically be now built and run without depending on any single and central organization. Collaborative platforms such as review sites are the obvious next step.

Challenges Review Sites Face

A review site is a website where individuals leave public audits of their experiences with products and services. While consumers’ reviews have been proven to be highly influential to users, they are as well commonly subject to concerns and criticisms.

  1. Conflict of interest: Review sites are generally financed by advertising. This business model consequently stirs up a, sometimes legitimate, mistrust from consumers who might suspect the owners of moderating the reviews or favoring their clients’ items in listings, reviews and/or ratings in an effort to get more money from their advertisement sponsors.
  2. Dependence on Tech giants:  Building a trustworthy reputation on the internet takes time and effort. Over the last 10 years, internet tech giants have captured data and taken over the relationship with customers, essentially having a monopoly on consumer data and trust. They now have got the upper hand on even the major brands. So what happens if you are not the best – i.e. most profitable – choice of one these giants’ secret algorithms? What is your ability as an individual or company to transfer, to recover your hard-earned reputation to start selling your product on a new platform? The truth is not much. Reputation has been privatized. This means that most businesses are at the mercy of tech giants.
  3. Fake and inconsistent reviews: It is a challenge to fight fake reviews, whether they are extra-positive, auto-promotion reviews generated by business themselves, hit peices from competitors, ranting ex-employees, or grumpy clients. Most sites do not actively manage nor restrict postings. First, they usually do not have the human resources to assess and verify the information in the reviews. That would require a truly staggering number of employees. However even if they did, we do not want them to restrict postings. This keeps the integrity of platforms in tact. Unmoderated and real reviews by users are more valuable than any that may be restricted or doctored. This is why it takes a lot of effort to develop a platform that encourages good behavior, promotes genuine and legitimate reviews but prevents, spots, and punishes bad actors.
  4. Polarization of reviews: Most reviews are either extremely positive or negative with little middleground. Why? Most likely, because users that are satisfied overall stay silent. The effort of writing a review is usually triggered and “paid for” by delight or excessive disappointment and anger.

Improving the Way We interact with Reviews

Our Sponsors at REVAIN are reinventing the review model and aims at tackling the previously mentioned challenges. They do it by leveraging blockchain technology, best known for driving Bitcoin and more generally the engine of services decentralization. The blockchain may lay the foundations to design a new form of smart, collaborative, and robust review platform.

Transparency

The blockchain-powered review platform provides users, merchant and third parties with a clear view on the mechanisms and rules that govern the reviews. It also offers to all actors an equal visibility of activities.

Immutable Reviews

The platform offers a trusted single-source of information that cannot be altered by any party without anyone noticing. It is an obvious quality to establish trust between all stakeholders but may as well come with risks.

To offset these risks, REVAIN needs to provide more context, to help users to put reviews into perspective, and to balance them. Here is how they address those issues:

  • The enforcement of “good behaviors” through governance mechanisms incentivizes for their honest reviews and holds businesses accountable to provide appropriate and useful responses to the potential criticisms.
  • An emphasis on the degree to which each review is constructive and useful, independent from the fact that it is positive or negative. Studies have shown this value to be directly indexed on the tone / level of emotion of its writer, which can be evaluated by Artificial Intelligence. This obviously does not substitute for human judgement but helps in filtering, checking the content, and ultimately help all users to make a sound judgment.

Governance and Economics of the platform

The blockchain enables new form of economic organization and governance.  Through issuing and exchanging of digital tokens, it enables a direct value flow from those who produce value to those who consume this value, without the need of a ruling central authority or clearing house. Writers are rewarded for genuine and constructive reviews. Businesses pay to expose these reviews and bad actors are punished when they break platform policies. It is about designing and fostering a relationship where users and businesses trust each other.

Conclusion

Decentralization of reputation management could be extremely valuable to the public and companies. REVAIN plans on reinvigorating review services at both the user and business level. With a solid footing thanks to their recent ICO, it will be interesting to see how the project develops.

This sponsored post does not necessarily reflect the opinions of any The Merkle employees. This is not investment or trading advice, always conduct your own independt research.