Web of Trust is a highly popular community driven website rating system. It rates websites based on the accumulated reviews and ratings of its user base. While that may sound like a great idea, and it is in general, it sometimes led to legit websites being rated negatively by some users of the service.
These ratings affected websites negatively, mostly because the Web of Trust software itself would warn its users from loading the site in the browser. While some negative ratings are placed with malicious intent, for instance by competing webmasters, others were placed in error by users who did not really understand how the rating system worked.
Web of Trust users had to rate a site's trustworthiness, the vendor reliability, privacy and child safety. The company announced a major redesign of its rating scheme which has been released in the last couple of days on the website itself, and also in form of browser extension updates.
Web of Trust Update
The new rating scheme requires only two scores instead of four that the previous required. Trustworthiness and child safety ratings remain, while the other two have been removed. The questions have been optimized as well, so that it is clearer what users rate.
A second step has been added to the rating process. Users need to select at least one category that describes or supports the rating they have given the site. These are sorted into positive/neutral, questionable, and negative groups.
The effect here is that ratings are more transparent in nature since raters need to link their ratings with at least one category that supports the rating. While this does not take care of malicious raters, it reduces the chance of misleading or erroneous ratings by users who had issues with the previous rating system. It is still possible to leave a comment when you review a website.
Websites can be checked directly on the Web of Trust website, which can be useful for webmasters who want to check out how their sites are rated, and for users who want to check websites when they do not have the extension installed.
The comment system has been modified as well. Previously, the comment with the highest rating was displayed in the top position. This is not necessarily the case anymore on the redesigned site. Other factors, the number of downvotes, the age of the comment, the comment length or internal signals, play a role as well now to improve the order in which comments are displayed on the site.
The Google Chrome, Firefox and Safari extensions have been updated so far. Existing users should receive the update automatically, while new users can download the add-ons from their browser's web store directly.
Note: You do not need to create an account to use the extension. You can skip the second step of the post-installation wizard by clicking on the title of the third. Some functionality won't be available to you then though.
The removal of two of the four ratings may certainly look like a step backward, but the two removed criteria have been integrated into the new category system. It is for instance possible to select "poor customer experience", "privacy risks" or "online tracking" here which can be used to rate a website positively or negatively in this regard. It looks to be a change for the better all in all.