Lots of people have tried to create more sophisticated and useful online trust metrics. It ain't easy, as you would assume when brains like MIT get involved. Now a handful of startups such as Opinity and ZoomInfo are bringing their ideas to the table, and their stories only highlight the difficulty of the task. For starters, there's the complicated computer stuff, like devising reliable algorithms and data collection methods. These so-called "reputation management" sites then require lots of input by users (registering and updating profiles, for example) for their systems to work well, adding a huge burden of drumming up interest in the service. Opinity estimates it needs 1 million users to reach critical mass. Will enough people go out of their way to contribute to these unknown systems? Doubtful. The extra effort notwithstanding, the notion of trust is relative and almost impossible to measure explicitly, so it won't be easy convincing people that your system is more trustworthy than others (motto idea: "Trust us, our trust metric is great!"). Of course, there's also the chore of building a business around a radically new, free internet service. It just makes the uphill battle that much steeper.
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