If I named ten extensions I am the biggest fan of, WOT Web of Trust would be on that exclusive list.
Why? They provide a great service to the public, helping organize the public to alert itself about risky web site. The real power in WOT isn’t the tools, it is the users. It is the perfect mash up of the right tools, at the right time. Anything that is simple to use, and makes users more aware of the risks around them is a good thing. With that said, I wanted to talk a little more about the service with one of the people behind the magic, Esa Suurio, the CEO of Web of Trust.
What was the main inspiration behind the WOT Web of Trust add-on for Firefox?
Esa: The company was founded in 2006 by two postgraduate students, Timo Ala-Kleemola and Sami Tolvanen, both M.Sc. in Electrical Engineering. Timo and Sami graduated from Tampere University of Technology (Finland) where they had met and studied together. Sami got the idea while researching reputation systems for his doctoral thesis. He originally planned on using it as a part of an Internet messaging system, but decided to try if it would work for websites too, and it did.
The guys put WOT on the Internet and it started to grow without any marketing, which clearly tells that there is a need for this kind of service.
Where did the name, Web of Trust, come from?
Esa: The name highlights that we are a people-driven service. The nature of Internet is open. No single authority can decide what is good and what is bad – neither has the resources to do so. We wanted to create a common platform for people to share their experience on websites and the services they offer. If unreliable sites were known to people, their lives would be short-lived.
There is no doubt that community is the most important part of your service. What advice would you have to other add-ons or business looking to build a community around their own product?
Esa: We truly are a community-driven service. For example, when we develop our software, we ask our users what new functions they would like to have added. We read very carefully all the feedback we get from our users and use it as our guideline when we develop Web of Trust further. In our case it’s “product around the community” and not vice versa. The community members need to see that the systems gives them real value – I think that’s what make some communities grow.
We value our members and their contribution – for example, we just gave out Web of Trust Publicity Awards 2008 for users who have helped us to spread the word about WOT.
I’ll say in my personal opinion, I was happy to see you guys come along after an add-on that might be in the same category, SiteAdvisor, kind of got a lot worse after being picked up by McAfee. What is Web of Trust doing to make sure they don’t get too watered down?
Esa: SiteAdvisor is a great service and they are fighting on the same side with us. What makes Web of Trust different is the fact that our website ratings are based mainly on ratings coming from our users. This enables us to be faster and more accurate than computerized testing services. Internet fraud can often be only detected by a human person. Lets take an example: One of the latest trend of security threats against Internet users employs software products which pretend to be security tools that help you remove spyware or viruses. These fake anti-malware products scare users by giving false alarms and then try to deceive users into paying for removal of non-existing malware.
When these threats started to emerge last year, WOT was the first system to warn users about them, thanks to our active users who rated these sites. The quality of WOT website ratings has improved as our community has grown, so we definitely are on the right track.
Are you guys working on any spin-off or side projects right now or is your main focus still on Web of Trust.
Web of Trust is our main focus. There is so much to do. We are certainly not going to stop here – the journey has just begun.