RealTime IT News

New E-Commerce Rating Service Planned

Start-up Open Ratings said it plans to launch an independent rating service designed to "increase the level of trust, reliability and brand recognition between buyers and sellers in online business to business, consumer and auction marketplaces."

The venture, which apparently would compete in some ways with established player BizRate.com, had been operating under the code name "FairNetworks."

Open Ratings said it will be a neutral, third-party, personalized e-commerce rating service that enables online businesses of all sizes to increase revenues and reduce barriers to buying by building customer confidence and trust.

The company said the service will empower buyers and sellers in auction environments and B2B marketplaces by allowing both parties to rate each other, as well as previous customers' experiences.

Co-founded by MIT Media Lab e-commerce expert Pattie Maes and backed by Atlas Venture and Nicholas Negroponte, Open Ratings plans to launch in March.

Open Ratings also will be offered as a distributed, co-branded service through online partners that want to benefit from increased e-commerce and provide their users with reliable information.

"Small businesses need the most help building their brands online because they cannot afford to spend millions of dollars on advertising. Open Ratings will level the playing field and allow even the mom-and-pop shops and unknown auction sellers to educate potential buyers about their reliability and good customer service," said Maes.

"Our research shows that with a reliable, independent rating service based on customer feedback, potential buyers will feel comfortable buying from unknown but interesting merchants."

"We're delivering a solution in which buyers can gain trust, sellers can make more sales, and the Web becomes a safer environment for transactions," said Stanford A. Smith, chief executive officer, president and co-founder.

In determining the ratings, which are entirely based on customer feedback, the service will weigh a variety of factors, including verification of transactions and both the buyer and seller's reputation, the company said. Open Ratings said it protects users' privacy by allowing raters to remain anonymous.

Maes also works as an associate professor at MIT's Media Laboratory, where she founded and directs the Software Agents Group, and is principal investigator of the e-markets Special Interest Group.

She was a founder and director of Firefly Network Inc., one of the first companies to commercialize software agent technology. Firefly was acquired by Microsoft in 1998.