WOT and “Trustworthiness”

It is regularly suggested that Firefox should have something like WOT (Web of Trust) for verifying the trustworthiness of websites. People often propose this as a replacement for the SSL model of identity verification (although SSL says nothing about trustworthiness, only more or less about identity) or as a replacement for Google’s list of attack sites and web forgeries.

A friend of mine recently wrote an interesting and informative blogpost. I sent a link to another friend today, who viewed it and then replied back:

That site has a truly dreadful WOT rating – who did he upset?

And a small amount of thought about that, my friends, will tell you why WOT is unsuitable for Firefox.

5 thoughts on “WOT and “Trustworthiness”

  1. The inverse is also true. Why not just use Amazon’s Mechanical Turk to pay people a few cents to give your malware site a positive review? Surely you’ll find enough to game the system.

  2. Obviously WOT doesn’t replace identity verification or malware blacklists, and it wasn’t designed for that, but gaming the system is not nearly as simple as you make it sound (see http://www.mywot.com/wiki/FAQ#Common_misconceptions). Without knowing which website you mean, I’d say it’s more likely the site’s poor reputation is explained by it being blacklisted somewhere, or the site being a subdomain that inherits the parent domain’s reputation due to insufficient ratings.

  3. Sami: the poor reputation, according to the many comments on the WOT entry, are not due to low ratings or a blacklist. They are due to the individual commenters not agreeing with the personal beliefs of the person concerned (beliefs which have very little to do with the subject of the blog or the blogpost). The site has been marked down in all categories – including “hateful, violent or illegal content” (factually untrue), “phishing or other scams” (certainly not true in the sense you mean it) and “ethical issues”, which seems to me to be a broad catch-all on WOT’s part that allows people to mark down sites whose ethical stance or opinions they object to.

  4. Comments allow people to describe in more detail why they don’t trust a website, and the site owner having extreme opinions can certainly cause people to lose trust. Many people find sites promoting alternative medicine or controversial religions untrustworthy, for example. You chose not to tell us which website you mean, so I can’t comment on this specific case, but based on your description it sounds like this might very well be what happened here. You are, of course, right that the subjective nature of trust doesn’t make reputations suitable for replacing the aforementioned types of security, but knowing how much others trust websites is still very useful for web users.