Are you sure that you can completely trust one of the Internet’s most popular resources in online security? Web of Trust is a website that comes advertised as a full-featured browser plugin or extension to assist you in immediately judging the trustworthiness of a website. It’s something that we’ve covered time and time again here at MakeUseOf, and it’s even made it to our list of best websites on the Internet. Many of us know it as one of the most useful resources in web security, and I personally know that a good portion of our MakeUseOf staff are big fans of it.
In short, Web of Trust takes the ratings and opinions of millions of people on the Internet and score websites based on how they fare with the WOT community. Web of Trust scores a website based on criteria like trustworthiness, reliability, privacy, and safety. Again, these scores aren’t determined by Internet security experts. They’re generated by normal people like you and I. Sounds like it can be a system vulnerable to manipulation and improper use? You’re absolutely right! While Web of Trust serves its purpose for millions of users, there are a few common instances where you’ve got to scratch your head and second-guess a scorecard. In this post, let’s look into the type of websites this seems to most commonly occur with.
Online Marketplaces & Classifieds
This is a sticky situation for Web of Trust, and it first became obvious to me when one of our editors brought it to my attention in a previous post of mine that showed off Fiverr alternatives.
Shown above is the WOT scorecard for one of the Internet’s most reliable Fiverr competitors, Fourerr. As you can clearly see, they are far from favorable. In comparison, Fiverr itself has not a single mark below 75 on the scale. Being an alternative to Fiverr, it’s quite expected that a site like Fourerr may not be scored as high as the website it attempts to imitate, but why is Fourerr scored so poorly? Let’s take a glance at the comments section.
Based on what you see above, it’s clear why this website is being rated so poorly. WOT users are using the Fourerr marketplace, buying services from providers that are either unreliable or not up to their standards, and then punishing the entire website for it. Think about that for a moment.
In comparison, Craigslist’s lowest mark is a 77 in the Child Safety category. Everything else is scored at 86 or above. However, we all know about the scams that pollute Craigslist. Spammers pound the site with affiliate links and advertisements. People sell broken and stolen goods. Craigslist has even been used in the middle of some disgusting and unfortunate crimes. While it is up to Craigslist to dedicate resources to eliminating spam and other more obvious content, it’s not Craigslist’s fault if someone sells you a broken PlayStation 2.
WOT users are punishing websites that offer a perfect platform to buy and sell goods on because they make the mistake of buying from the wrong people. It’s not entirely fair to WOT or the website itself.
Opinions, Bias, Free Speech, etc.
It is not on Web of Trust users to determine what is “good” for us to read or not. To better investigate such a case, let’s actually look into a blog that completely criticizes Web of Trust.
Admittedly, I’ve only read through parts of this blog. I don’t necessarily endorse or even agree with anything that I’ve read, either. This entire website is filled with rants regarding the service that Web of Trust provides, and the author outlines multiple incidents that they’ve experienced when using the service that comes across to them as untrustworthy or abusive.
Despite the written content on this website being true or not, it shouldn’t affect the website’s Trustworthiness score on Web of Trust. What should affect the Trustworthiness score is if the website tries to deceive and manipulate you into spending money for something that you’ll never receive, or for being a security risk. Why would this website score a 40 in Child Safety? The reason is because people are letting their emotions get in the way of judging the website fairly.
As you can see, comments above have marked the website as useless, having ethical issues, and including hateful or questionable content. Speaking from an unbiased point of view, these are simply not true. Maybe you don’t agree with the text content of a website, but the job of WOT users is not exactly to police us from reading things that they don’t personally agree with. The job is to keep us safe.
Web of Trust is not the law of the land. You have to take it for what it’s worth, and you must understand that human error is part of the equation. The plain truth is that your website can suffer from a poor scorecard on WOT simply because a majority of people aren’t supportive of the content on your website. That is a complete misuse of the service, but it’s fortunate that this happens only in a small percentage of cases.
If we were to judge Web of Trust overall based on how only a small portion of Web of Trust users misuse the service, that’d be no different than judging a marketplace for having a few poor sellers (like in our first example). Web of Trust gives you the opportunity to make a difference and change the way we protect each other when surfing online, and it’s an awesome service because of that.
What are your opinions on users taking advantage of Web of Trust? Do you know any other examples that weren’t mentioned in this post? Feel free to share them in the comments below.