The internet is a loud, judgmental, invariably angry place, but startup Peeple has inspired more than the usual degree of bile. Promising to be for individuals what Yelp has become for businesses, the app won’t launch until sometime in November but its core concept – allowing anybody to leave a review or, if they’re feeling lazy, just a one to five star rating, on you – has already prompted fierce debate online.
The idea, company founders Nicole McCullough and Julia Cordray explained to the Washington Post, is that we research the businesses we patronize and the restaurants we eat at; the hotels we sleep in, and even the Uber and Lyft drivers we summon from our phones. Why, they argue, shouldn’t individual people have the same sort of digital validation?
Their answer is an app where you can “showcase your character” according to Cordray, and where those who know you can leave interesting tidbits on whether you’re punctual, gregarious, generous with time and advice, and an excellent kisser.
Or, alternatively, if you’re always late, stingy, and probably use too much tongue.
Only those over 21 will be able to participate, and they have to demonstrate a tangible connection. That can be either personal, professional, or romantic, and if the individual isn’t already reviewed then they’re added by their cellphone number.
It’s not like McCullough and Cordray haven’t at least considered unfairly negative feedback. Peeple will require a Facebook account before you can leave a review, and your real name will be attached.
Then again, if you’ve ever read the comments under articles on hot-button issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage, or immigration, you’ll probably already know that many people aren’t afraid to put their real name to comments many would find offensive.
Positive Peeple ratings are visible immediately, whereas negative ones are queued for 48 hours so that they can be argued about before going live. You shouldn’t have to worry about being criticized without realizing it, either, since Peeple suggests that the profiles of those who haven’t actively registered will only show the good things.
Negative reviews that have been published can later be contested, Peeple’s founders insist.
While the app apparently has funding, feedback on existing social platforms like Twitter and Facebook has been less positive. Fears around cyber-bullying, objectification, and whether there’s indeed any value to be gleaned from reviews of individuals have all been cited.
In an update to the company site, McCullough and Cordray claimed Peeple had been misunderstood and that it should be seen as a “gift” rather than something scary.
“We know you are amazing, special, and unique individuals and most likely would never shout that from the rooftops. The people who know you will though… they choose to be around you and in your life and support you even when you don’t like yourself. We have come so far as a society but in a digital world we are becoming so disconnected and lonely. You deserve better and to have more abundance, joy, and real authentic connections. You deserve to make better decisions with more information to protect your children and your biggest assets. You have worked so hard to get the reputation you have among the people that know you” Peeple
The idea of assigning digital kudos isn’t new – LinkedIn, for instance, has been doing that with job-related abilities for years now – and neither is value being placed on personal recommendations. Twitter’s auto-suggestions for who you should follow, indeed, are justified by the fact that those you already follow are contacts of the new person or brand.
All the same, it seems ripe for a lawsuit or accusations of defamation of character. Peeple says that – among other things – references to health, disability, sexual matters, racism, and sexism are against its terms of service.
Peeple is expected to launch in mid-November. Would you use it? Let us know in the comments.
Update: There’s growing speculation that Peeple is all a hoax, with Snopes weighing in with the suggestion that it could be intended to promote Cordray and McCullough’s video work.