On the Web, virtually everything comes with a review and a rating, from restaurants and grocers (Yelp), to retail products and books (Amazon), and before the app was shut down, entire neighborhoods (Sketch Factor). Now, a new app wants to introduce the same evaluation system to people.
Peeple, the new iOS app that will allow its users to rate other people both with comments and on a five-star scale, is currently in Beta testing, and is scheduled for release in late November. The stated goal of the app is to enable people to more easily connect with other people who are highly ranked, whether in a personal, professional, or romantic context.
“Peeple will enhance your online reputation for access to better quality networks, top job opportunities, and promote more informed decision making about people,” reads a description of the app on its website.
The creators envision a future where searching for qualified people to meet is as simple as looking up a highly rated restaurant. “You can search with the nearby tab to discover people within a 10-mile radius that have a 4.6 overall star rating.”
The concept of rating other human beings on a searchable database isn’t new, although Peeple’s scope makes it the largest incarnation of that idea yet. Since 2011, women have been able to anonymously rate and review men on the Lulu app. The app has racked up hundreds of millions of views, but its reach was greatly curtailed last year when it made it mandatory for men to opt-in to the app before they were rated.
Lulu had long received complaints that the app was used as a platform for defamation, and in December 2013 a Brazilian man sued Lulu; later in January, Brazil outlawed the app altogether. Critics of Peeple, which doesn’t allow for an opt-out option, are raising similar concerns, saying the platform will quickly devolve into a morass of gossip, libel, and cyberbullying.
The co-founders of Peeple are confident that the checks featured in the app will minimize abusive behavior on the social network. Reviews are not anonymous, users have to be over the age of 21, check-in with a valid Facebook account that’s been active for at least six months, and enter a valid phone number before they can submit reviews on Peeple.
Overly negative reviews—ratings of two stars or less—won’t show up until after 48 hours, during which time the rated person can dispute the review through the app’s arbitration system. Users are also encouraged to dole out positive reviews because everyone is assigned a “positivity rating” based on how positive their ratings of other people are.
“If you are someone that leaves more negative reviews than positive reviews you will not be taken seriously in our app due to the positivity rating that you will have,” reads a post on the app’s Facebook page. Peeple has also brushed off concerns about cyberbullying with the promise that such comments will be promptly removed because it violates the app’s terms and conditions.
“We do not tolerate profanity, bullying, health references, disability references, confidential information, mentioning other people in a rating that you are not currently writing a rating for, name calling, degrading comments, abuse, derogatory comments, sexual references, mention of confidential information, racism, legal references, hateful content, sexism, and other parameters in our terms and conditions,” the site reads.
To create a profile and rate someone who isn’t registered on the network, users can submit a profile picture and the phone number of that person, who’s notified via text. Peeple hasn’t disclosed how they’ll verify that the phone number is genuine, and did not respond to inquiries on the matter.
But that won’t matter. Peeple’s co-founders told the Washington Post that if you haven’t registered for the site and can’t dispute negative reviews, your profile will only show positive—presumably two-and-a-half-stars or more—ratings. However, such a filter could easily be circumvented by writing negative comments paired with five-star ratings.
Peeple offers a silver-lining for those who might have their reputation ruined online. The comments will only last for a year: “We know that you grow and change for the better and we want you to be able to have your best foot forward at all times year over year,” the FAQ reads.