Today, I’d like to take a little time to talk about and mourn the closure of Epinions. For those somehow unfamiliar with the site, Epinions was one of the earliest user-submitted Internet sites preceding Yelp by around five years. For a couple of years, I was a Games Advisor.
Epinions specialized in consumer product reviews and gave a voice to the voiceless. It brought people together in a way that, until that point, was relegated to primitive message boards and the awful world of chat rooms.
Epinions, at least in the early days, was what represented the best of the Internet. People were on their best behavior, building a reputation with other members over time for the way they conducted themselves on the site. Reputations mattered and being in a coveted Web of Trust meant others would check you out. This sounds ridiculously archaic in the age of Twitter, but it was amazing for the common man back then.
Being the best wasn’t enough. Writing wasn’t enough. To truly reap the rewards, one had to interact with other writers. These interactions paid dividends, both literal and figurative, and helped guide the way people began to interact on the site.
Crude allegiances of like-minded people coalesced. Site-specific lingo, such as “revenge rating” and “rubber stamping” were coined in the early days of the site.Whereas the Internet as a whole runs like the Old West, Epinions ran like some Internet form of Utopia. It was the Internet with accountability rather than anonymity.
Unwritten rules formed, like an early set of netiquette, formed. Most people believed it was common courtesy to at least click on what they had written if they clicked on your article. Turnabout is fair play, after all. At the beginning of this Dot-com Boom era, those clicks quickly added up into real cash at three cents per member click.
There’s this Rob Gordon quote in High Fidelity, perhaps one of the most quotable movies for elitist nerds such as myself, that really sums up what made Epinions so special for so many people.
“What really matters is what you like, not what you are like. Books, records, films… these things matter.”
The dirty little secret of Delta Attack is that, were it not for Epinions, there would likely be no Delta Attack. The very name of the site was established because we, the writers of Delta Attack, formed a bond through a love for Final Fantasy and a connection through Epinions.
Mark A. Brooks and I clicked almost instantly. Often, hidden amongst the snippets of my needlessly wordy reviews, were little nuggets of truth that revealed a shared upbringing and ethnicity. Though I have never really asked, I wondered if he, too, grew up reading MAD Magazine before moving onto weekly Dave Barry articles.
Though Markham Asylum had also written at Epinions, it wasn’t until much later that we would realize that we, in years prior, had interacted on the site on numerous occasions. We connected years later through Mister Brooks over on Livejournal. Over the years, and through the strange mixture of social interaction and personal writing that were standard for us on good ‘ol LJ, we had learned a little about each other. Mostly, it was nerd-related.
I’ve never met Mark A. Brooks, Markham Asylum, or ikecube in person. Unbeknownst to me, they were friends who grew up together. Had we passed each other on the streets back in 2000, which was very much an impossibility due to my Army enlistment and geographical location, there’s a very good chance we’d pass without so much as a second thought. That’s not even factoring in the snobby arrogance (read “douchebaggery”, though other regions pronounced it as “asshattery”) that comes with youth and my caustic, brash personality.
As Epinions grew, the site experienced growing pains. A reduction in pay per click caused an exodus of quality writers. Many stayed because they already had these existing relationships with people who they wouldn’t have met any other way. Others stayed because they felt they had nowhere else to go. I was a little of both.
Later, though the luster of the site had long since been lost, the site was acquired by Shopping.com. Later still, eBay. Each new owner brought about another change. The site suffered as it was handed over to the community. The Games category was so updated so irregularly that I had no choice but to leave, as I’d have a review prepared and nowhere to put it.
For me, Epinions was a place to stretch my creative muscles. I was never much of a writer in the past, perhaps because I never cared to read that much as a child, but Epinions gave me a place to sharpen my skills. It gave me a place, an outlet, an audience of people who came together to share and read and click. Epinions made me realize that I might actually have something to say.
Over time, I would rise up the ranks in the Games category and achieve Advisor status. It’s been nearly eight years since I wrote my last video game review on Epinions. Miraculously, I’m ranked as the number 35 writer in Games after all this time.
Though I’m years removed from the site, the importance of it should upon this day be eulogized. It should be remembered as a site that was before its time, but also as a site that ended up a relic of a time long since passed. It should be remembered for the good it did, the people it brought together, and the relationships it helped form.
For someone who spent far more of his time being lost and feeling alone than he ever likes to admit, Epinions was a saving grace.Tweet
About the Author
|Fade to Slack is a founding member of Delta Attack, an American expatriate in South Korea, and a true believer in the legitimacy of mobile gaming.
Keep up with him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Fade2Slack so he can justify having a Twitter account.
Fade to Slack has written 339 posts on Delta Attack.