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.”Tweet