For years the talkback sections on the Internet have created a culture of open discourse between users, but the openness is sometimes just an illusion. Behind the scenes, there is a serious filtering system, sometimes with different, conflicting interests, and there are also many big, influential websites that prefer not to include comment sections at all, in order not to harm sales.
An Israeli start-up called Retort, which was founded last year by Raul Manshirov and Segev Sari, is attempting to create a truly open forum for users. The idea is to create a Chrome browser extension, which allows users to read and post talkbacks on any webpage they visit.
Thus, for example, you could comment on a gadget sold on eBay, or read opinions about the landlord of an apartment for rent in Tel Aviv – things that, today, website owners do not allow.
In effect, the add-on allows for the websites to be bypassed and for discussions on content to be possible.
We want to empower the users, ” Manshirov told “Globes.” “Websites like Yad2, WinWin, and even eBay operate as platforms that are closed to comments and opinions on products in order not to harm their sales. We have bypassed this, and we allow users to share information with each other on these platforms.”
The company is in the early stages of launching its product, and is in preliminary talks for seed funding.
Users who install the add-on will have a signal on their browser toolbar indicating that there comments on the page he or she is on, or regarding a listing or product that the user is looking at.
In addition, the talkback system serves as a sort of a mini-social network, as users can receive notifications regarding responses to their posts, can connect with their Facebook or Google profiles, and, in the future, will be able to connect with a more anonymous profile as well.
Today, Israeli start-up Spot.IM operates in this market, and offers a talkback system for website owners However, unlike Retort, Spot.IM’s system is based on the entire website, and is not per-page or per-listing, so it is difficult to keep track of which comments are related to which story. Also, Spot.IM does not keep track of user identity throughout different sites, as the service is site-based and not browser-based.
Manshirov explains that the Retort system allows for user comments to be rated, to build credibility (or lack thereof) for various users in the future, when each profile will be accompanied by a ranking.
The company is also working on an iOS app, and on a website that will localize and display the top comments across the web.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news – www.globes-online.com