Late last fall, there was widespread backlash regarding a new app that let people rate and review each other. While the concept seemed simple enough, many people were immediately worried it would provide a platform for mean-spirited and negative content to be posted about anyone.
Peeple’s app makers described the app in this way: “Peeple is a reputation application that allows you to recommend and be recommended by the people you interact with in your daily lives in the following three ways you can know someone: Personal, Professional, and Dating.”
Opponents instantly dubbed Peeple the Yelp for Humans and developers Julia Cordray and Nicole McCullough drew intense criticism, as many feared Peeple would be used less for information gathering and more for cyberbullying and online defamation. This stance was reinforced by one of the apps features that allowed all negative reviews to be live and viewable for at least 48 hours before they could be refuted.
The adverse response to the app came swiftly and saw some take to social media to post about their concerns. Others took to social media to post reviews of their own about the proposed app and its creators.
There are reports of the apps creators receiving thousands of harassing emails, comments, and phone calls after the media began publishing stories about the app.
“The developers of Peeple were threatened, their privacy was invaded, and they were castigated and shouted down on Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and Facebook,” wrote Guardian reporter Elle Hunt. “All this before the Peeple app ever actually saw the light of day.”
The negative reception forced creators to not only defend themselves and the app, it also led them back to the drawing board to work on the elements that had garnered the most concern.
“We were super humbled by [the response], and we appreciate the opportunity to make an even better app. That was very welcome feedback,” Cordray said in an interview. “We never meant to scare anybody, we never meant for anyone to feel like we could cause them harm. Peeple is for ‘positive people.’”
Now the app has been somewhat redesigned and is being rolled out across North America. Gone is the controversial Star rating that allowed users to give out or suppress Stars for fellow Peeple users. Now tallies are given to correlate with the number of recommendations a user has received. However, users can still review people according to professional, personal or romantic relationships.
App co-developer Cordray told the press use of the app during the beta test proved that people are very positive. “Users have enjoyed spreading kindness and accolades while reading what people really think of them,” she said.
Despite developers saying the response to the overhauled beta version of the app is positive, many wonder if this is just smoke and mirrors. This is especially true since a premium service called, The Truth License, will be introduced in the near future allowing subscribers to see all the reviews of other users, whether publicly posted or not.
It remains to be seen if Peeple can be the platform for positive feedback that it claims to be, or whether it will be another site used to post mean and duplicitous things about people, much like The Dirty or Rate.me.