Swipp launches global ratings system for all things, people, and places

Swipp is the latest launch from one of Silicon Valley's most successful teams.
Written by Tom Foremski on

I'm a big fan of the team behind today's launch of Swipp, a service that aggregates people's rating of any product, service, person, city...anything.

DonThorson (1 of 1)-2
(Credit: Tom Foremski)

Swipp's ambition is to become a global platform that connects and collects the world's "social intelligence" about anything that can be named. A "swipp" is a vote on a plus-five to minus-five scale.

I recently met with Swipp's co-founders Don Thorson (above) and Charlie Costantini. They've worked together in previous ventures, the most recent being Ribbit, sold to British Telecom for $105 million in 2009.

Here are some notes from our conversation:

  • The idea for Swipp started about two years ago. They wanted to know what people were thinking about anything; the economy, San Francisco, etc.

  • The Swipp team believes it has produced a unique platform for "social intelligence" that combines people's need for social expression with people's knowledge about some things.

  • The launch is very ambitious; it has people in 45 countries and five languages, launching and evangelizing the service.

  • The team behind Swipp has been at the birth of four multibillion-dollar platforms and technologies over the last three decades. At Atari as the video games industry was born; at Apple when the PC industry was forming; at Netscape for the rise of the web; at Jajah and Ribbit for the rise of IP telecoms. Swipp is at the start of the rise of what is expected to be the next big thing: "social intelligence."

  • Swipp is topic based not people based. Only one vote per person is counted, therefore it cannot be gamed easily because it requires a Facebook identity to register.

  • There are a range of tools that analyze Swipps based on gender, location, and other factors. Large retailers are interested in embedding Swipp into their websites to combine with their internal databases and better track sentiment about their products.

  • Auto-complete is important because it helps standardize the names of things and place names. Additional information is brought to users about the things they swipp based on what's available in Google's Freebase, a Wikipedia-like collection of information.

  • Swipp also finds relevant photos, videos, and other copyright-free information.

  • Future plans include an easy-to-build app system for anyone to create "Swipplists"; it will act as a survey tool or other type of information aggregator. It could also be used for competitive intelligence.

  • The API is very important and the startup has taken the approach that it builds everything around the API, a real one.

  • There is a chicken-and-egg problem at launch but this should be temporary as millions of people around the world start swipping and populating the database. People who are the first to swipp a topic are featured on the topic page as an incentive for them and others to add more topics to the 10 million at launch.

  • People cannot be the target of swipps unless they are public figures. This is to stop any online bullying.

  • There are three types of potential users of Swipp: those who are expressive and active across many social channels; those who want social discovery; while a third group is interested in social learning.

  • Open data is a very important and is a core philosophy at Swipp. Also, real-time data is important.

  • Swipp is in discussions with very large retailers to license its platform.

  • The company hopes that "swipp it" will become a common term in conversations.

Foremski's take:

It'll be interesting to see how Swipp fares. I don't see myself as the target market because I'm not that interested in what people think about Johnston & Murphy shoes, a Sony camera, or San Francisco. And I'm not interested in broadcasting to others what I think about those products even though I own them, and live in San Francisco.

A single number rating says very little--it's a small bit of general data in a big-data world where personalization is the goal. Swipp's rating system is the least interesting thing about the service to me.

Far more valuable is the platform itself, a global interconnected social back end that could be used for far more than a rating system.

Ratings could be just one use, just one app; there is a lot more that Swipp will be able to do once it connects up the universe of things and people.


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