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Reviled People-Rating App Slithers Into Action

By Quinten Plummer
Mar 8, 2016 2:50 PM PT

With its reputation preceding it, Peeple on Monday launched on the iTunes App Store.

The goal of the app is to help people better understand each other, according to the company.

It was designed for people who need to display their reputation to others, including freelancers, business owners, employees, teachers and coaches.

Peeple users can leverage social media platforms to share the recommendations they receive. Users also can link their profiles to their résumés.

Under Control

News of the Yelp-like app drew criticism last fall, but the people behind Peeple have stressed its baked-in accountability and antiabuse elements.

People can block and report abusers and control what happens on their Peeple profiles, according to the company.

To prevent dishonest reviews, Peeple has been working on a "Truth License" that would enable users to counter negative comments posted to their profiles. Users also can review a history of the remarks left by others, which could help discount unfair comments.

Children won't be able to use the app, the company said. An Apple App Store restriction prohibits use of the app by anyone 16 and under. The terms and conditions of Peeple restrict use of the app to those age 21 and older.

While Android wasn't included in the initial launch, the app is expected to support the platform later this year.

Peeple Change

Peeple made several changes ahead of its launch. No one can add another user to the app, and users have full control over what goes live on their profiles. Users also may deactivate their accounts.

The company also ditched the app's star rating in favor of its Peeple Number system, which is a count of the number of recommendations a user receives.

While Peeple has worked to improve its own reputation, the backlash from last year's delayed launch will make it harder for the company to attract a meaningful numbers of users, said John Turner, CEO of QuietKit.

"I think a lot of people will initially check out the site/app to see how it's changed from the original controversy, but the negative associations with it will keep people from signing up and installing it," he told the E-Commerce Times.

Yelp for People

The app and the idea behind it are evidence of the inevitable evolution of the uploading of our public, personal, professional and romantic lives online, noted Trish McDermott, cofounder of Panic Media Training and a member of Match's startup team.

During the early days at Match, the team wondered how it could help singles make good decisions about potential dates, she told the E-Commerce Times. They mulled a ranking and feedback system to help users glean information that was difficult or impossible to decipher from a profile alone.

"Desirability, chemistry, attraction, and even the appreciation of a particular sense of humor or style of dress is a highly personal experience," McDermott said. "What I think is charmingly funny, another woman might consider inappropriately sexist or stupidly corny. "

During those discussions, the concern was the potential for "revenge rankings," she noted. "If someone didn't like me or didn't ask me on a second date, would I be motivated to inform the community of his or her numerous shortcomings?"

For Peeple, the idea of "Yelp for people" is both a selling point and a turnoff, QuietKit's Turner said. While everyone likes to highlight and honor truly stellar individuals, the down-voting of average Joes and Janes will bring continued criticism of the app.

"While it would be great to have a public integrity metric for everyone," he said, "there are too many negatives in this current implementation, and there might be better ways to indirectly rate integrity for people based on their public actions."

Quinten Plummer is a longtime technology reporter and an avid PC gamer who explored local news for a few years, covering law enforcement and government beats, before returning to writing about things run by ones and zeros and the people who make them. If it pushes pixels or improves lives, he wants to learn all he can about it.

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