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Blogs & Articles: Reviewing Reviews đź”— 4 weeks ago

Aleksandar Svetski on Medium

How Nostr fixes reviews, ratings & recommendations

I’ve been working on something with the team.

We stumbled on it by accident when we set out to build a digital directory for Bitcoin circular economies that our AI models could reference. It’s funny how things work sometimes. You’re digging for one thing, and on the way, you find something unexpected and far more significant. I believe that what we discovered opens the door to one of the most powerful and under-discussed use cases for Nostr. This essay and the next few will explore what we’re doing in greater detail.

I can’t wait to welcome you to Satlantis!

Reviewing Reviews

Reviews & recommendations are fundamentally broken, despite being the key driver for buying behavior and decisions worldwide, particularly online:

  1. 89% of users read online reviews before buying the product
  2. 93% of users have made buying decisions based on an online review
  3. Only 9% of consumers would consider engaging with a business that had a 1- or 2-star average rating

They’ve been infected with the same disease that digital advertising has. They are mostly fake, easily gamed, censorable and generally irrelevant to the person reading them.

This needs to change, and for the first time in the history of the web, there’s a way to fix this. I’m going to explain how the platform we’re building; Satlantis, will leverage this new Internet stack to do it, but before I do that, I’d like to walk you through the problem in a little more detail.

An ocean of reviews

There are 1bn reviews on TripAdvisor for venues, merchants and vendors around the world. TrustPilot has almost 200m reviews of online websites, products and services. Glassdoor says they have 2,334,000 unique reviews of businesses by employees. Uber and AirBnB are literally booking platforms that run on reviews. Amazon has a few billion(?) product reviews (unable to find a total number) and Google, who is by far the largest online repository of online business reviews in the world, has well into the billions.

In fact — think about what the entire influencer marketing industry is itself? Literally a market for reviews and recommendations.

This is a huge part of the internet, whose existence is driven by the psychological human need for external validation. And it’s never going to change. Anyone who has worked in sales and marketing understands this. This is why, in the absence of a better alternative, MORE people are flocking to these broken review platforms to try and either find or create signal in the noise:

  • Consumer use of Google to evaluate local businesses leaped from 63% in 2020 to 81% in 2021.

Pointless junk everywhere

Despite the clear need for, and growing popularity of reviews, the frameworks they operate on are fundamentally broken. This results in a few big problems:

  1. Irrelevance. The reviews we read are mostly irrelevant. What does a 45yr old soccer-mom’s opinion about a restaurant have to do with me and my preferences?
  2. Fake. Reviews are now mostly fake. In a recent study, 50% of consumers said they were confident they’ve seen a fake review on Google. Another study that looked at 33.5 million reviews for best selling products on Amazon found that almost 43% were fake.
  3. Easily gamed. Beyond just fake reviews is the ability to game the system. There is an entire cottage industry of “reputation agencies” whose entire business model is to create the illusion of quality where there is none.
  4. Censorable. Review platforms are centralized services whose incentives are often in conflict with the truth. It’s not an easy problem to solve, because sometimes the public is your client, but sometimes so too is the business. Google and TripAdvisor are notorious for the deletion of reviews. In fact, there are now even services to help businesses “remove bad reviews”. See this provider in Germany, who charges $29/mth for the service

So..how to fix all of this?

It’s no small task. But the seeds of the solution have been sown. Let’s begin by looking at what the internet is, and why it has become the basic substrate for cyberspace.

The Internet Stack

The Internet is a thing of beauty. It connected humanity like no other technology or phenomenon before it. The possibilities it opened up are almost endless, despite being handicapped since inception because it emerged before we had true digital money and identity.

Right now, the internet stack looks something like this:

The Internet Stack

The Link layer is responsible for the physical and logical link between devices. Think Ethernet, Wi-Fi and PPP. The IP layer routes packets across network boundaries, making it possible for data to reach its destination regardless of the path it takes.

The Transport/TCP layer is responsible for delivering data between devices over the network. The Application Layer, think HTTP, FTP, SMTP is where end-user protocols operate.

Together, they form the foundation upon which the applications, platforms and sites which make up the “Internet” are built. This includes all of the sites and platforms we use on a daily basis, and that much of the modern world depends on.

Notice how the first four layers, which make everything possible, are a series of standards, or protocols. Online products, services and applications might have their own internal standards, but they all leverage the protocols which make up the core internet stack.

Why was the internet successful?

Despite the handicap I mentioned earlier, the internet has still been wildly successful. Why? Precisely because it was a stack of protocols, and NOT a company, a platform or a service.

What made it special is that nobody “owned” it.

AOL failed because it was a complex, managed, corporate information superhighway, with all the bells and whistles. They learned the hard way that no amount of market data or corporate experience and foresight can predict what a new communication modality would become. Just as free markets always trump centrally governed ones, open networks are exactly where all the innovation goes.

The internet assumed NOTHING and it won because it had the basic, robust, open building blocks upon which all the innovation actually occurred. The same thing has happened with Bitcoin over the last 15 years and is now starting to happen with Nostr.

And it’s right on time, because the gateways to the internet have centralized to such a degree that the very topography of the web is changing. Access to this open bazaar is being threatened because the applications who were once gateways, have started to become gatekeepers.

To fix this, and to fundamentally fix the internet, we need to upgrade the Internet stack and establish a new suite of superior products, services and applications that compete on value, not on gatekeeper economics.

The upgraded internet stack

The upgraded Internet Stack retains everything that was good about the existing internet, and solves for the handicaps by incorporating two new protocols.

1. Global protocol for Money: Bitcoin.

Until Bitcoin, money on the internet has been more of an application. In fact, because of the nature of fiat, all you have is third parties whom you authorize to convey information about intrinsically offline money. This is why companies like PayPal and Stripe have been so successful.

Still, despite their success, value transmission has been muffled because of the differential in settlement speed, the credit nature of fiat and political constraints of the money issuer. Now for the first time, money and value can travel as fast as information, and by embedding it into the core internet stack, we can unlock a truly open, global grand bazaar.

2. Global protocol for Identity & social: Nostr

Digital identity has also remained elusive. Similar to money on the internet, identity has thus far existed as an application. It’s not yours, but a service you use. A database entry on Facebook’s servers, or Google’s or Amazon’s servers, which you probably used to log into some app today.

This works, and is fine…until, it doesn’t work and it’s no longer fine. Which is where we find ourselves today. We’ve realized that we don’t actually own our accounts, we can be deplatformed at any time, our entire social graph can vanish, and we certainly cannot bring it with us from one walled garden to another.

Nostr changes all that, by pushing identity from the application layer, down into the protocol layer. In fact, it goes a step further by also making the social graph itself portable. This opens up a whole new design space for future applications.

Together, these new innovations create a UPGRADED Internet Stack that looks like more this:

  1. Link Layer (Physical)
  2. Internet Layer (IP)
  3. Transmission Layer (TCP)
  4. Process / Resource Layer (HTTP)
  5. Monetary Layer (BTC)
  6. Identity Layer (NOSTR)
  7. CLIENTS / APPS / PLATFORMS / SITES

The Upgrade Internet

The Opportunity: New Clients & Apps

This is where it gets interesting, and is precisely where the next big opportunities exist.

The upgraded Internet stack makes it possible for a whole new suite of applications to leverage a range of primitives that previously did not exist, or were only possible inside of a walled garden!

Think of it this way: If you upgrade the building materials, the kinds of structures you can build are also upgraded.

The existing internet stack is like wood. It can be used to build beautiful things, but they can only be structurally sound to a certain size. The new Internet stack is like steel. We can now build superstructures that were just not possible before.

But note that THIS IS NOT A FAT PROTOCOL THESIS!

Steel, bricks, glass, wood, stone — these are all building blocks and commodities. The real value is in the builders, the architect, the engineers and the designers. It’s what they DO with the building blocks that matter — and that is precisely where the economic and business value will accrue.

In the same way, value will NOT accrue to the protocol because It’s not supposed to — protocols are more of a commodity. The money is and should be made by those who leverage the protocols for end-user products, apps & services. (Bitcoin as a protocol is a unique exception because it’s money and actually measures all the value in the world).

A whole new world of applications awaits, that leverage the power of the internet, the portability of a social graph, webs of trust and interest, and direct global, permissionless monetisation. These applications will be able to do things the old Internet 2.0 applications could never do.

This is where the next breakthrough, Zero to One moments, will happen. The next major unicorns will leverage THIS stack.

Where does AI fit in?

AI enhances applications. Simple. It doesn’t even get its own spot in the stack. Smart businesses will embrace and embed machine learning/AI where necessary — and they will unlock incredible amounts of value — but they will use it as another building block, not a core focus.

This is our new mantra. I am so bullish on the opportunity to fix this problem, that I’ve actually decided to shift the core focus of our entire business in this direction. AI will remain a central part of what we’re doing, but we are no longer purely an “AI” company. It is just another part of our DNA, like the internet, Bitcoin and Nostr are.

How this Solves Reviews

Ok Svetski — this is cool and all & I know about the internet — so what the hell does this have to do with fixing online reviews ?

Simple. The addition of identity, and subsequently a social graph into the protocol layers of the internet, changes the topography of the web. New applications can leverage an open protocol to make the user experience more relevant, by using their web of trust and interest graph.

Think about it this way. I want to go to Dubai, and pick a restaurant to eat at. When I look at the reviews, I should see those from my direct or indirect social circle first! In fact, the closer the reviewer is to me (both in terms of social graph/relevance and interest graph) then the more their rating should influence the overall rating of the venue I see!

In other words; scores, ratings and reviews can and should be dynamic, across the entire web.

Your definition of a 5 star venue is different to mine, and in fact, if you and I share very little in common and have different values or beliefs, your 5-star might just be my 1-star. This topography solves both for relevance and for the bot-farms skewing overall scores.

Do not underestimate the gravity of this.

For the first time ever, reviews, ratings and recommendations can be influenced by my social graph, thereby making them not only more real, but more relevant and useful. In fact, there doesn’t even need to be a single, canonical presentation. What you see has the potential to be dynamic based on what you’re interested in, in that moment. This has implications beyond just reviews, but also the nature of advertising (which I will write about in a subsequent essay, as it’s another problem I’d like to solve with Satlantis).

Beyond just the social graph, reviews can be further validated and strengthened with the integration of a monetary protocol. Instead of just “liking” a review, you can tip (zap) it. A review your friend has “zapped” should probably have more influence on the venue rating YOU SEE, than some random rating or review done by someone not connected to you. This exhibits real economic preference and cuts right through spam and fake reviews.

Together, the social graph & incentives transform the very nature of reviews, and therefore the way the Internet will work.

The Killer App

Here’s a little thought experiment to help you visualize what I’m talking about:

Imagine if you could somehow discover what to do in a city, where to stay, places to visit and which communities to connect with, based on:

  • The travel posts & places you bookmarked on Instagram & X
  • The Whatsapp and Telegram groups you’ve joined & engage with the most
  • The reviews on Trip Advisor & Google you got the most value from
  • The Facebook groups you’re not only a part of, but interact with most
  • The places you’ve stayed on Booking.com, and have loved
  • The restaurants and merchants you and your friends have reviewed
  • The meetups and events you’ve attended on Meetup.com & Eventbrite
  • The travel & nomad accounts you follow across your different social media accounts

This is obviously impossible today, without some mega-surveillance corp to track it all. But…with Nostr, it’s actually possible, for the first time — in a privacy and sovereignty preserving way.

Soon, you will be able to log into an app connected to your social graph, then you follow the cities you’re interested in and watch as the things most relevant and important to you magically surface thanks to your web of trust and activity on the Nostr network.

This is precisely what we are building at Satlantis.

No more reading through a hundred pointless reviews from soccer mom’s on Trip Advisor or fake reviews on Google Maps. No more joining 10 different whatsapp, telegram or facebook groups to find a community. No more endless google searches and scanning through all your bookmarks on Instagram & Twitter to put them all into just another spreadsheet.

Just one home..for nomading, travel, living and lifestyle.

Satlantis

Travel, living & lifestyle is a $2T a year industry with real money being spent, every minute, of every day, of every year — and at the heart of every buying decision live ratings, reviews and recommendations.

Trip Advisor might be a “travel site” on the surface, but its core value proposition is the 1 billion ratings. This is their unique selling point, and what drives traffic to them.

AirBnB & Booking.com help you book a place to stay, but are driven by ratings — both official and community driven. The same goes for Uber, Amazon, and for that matter, every product, service or experience out there. They are all driven by reviews and ratings.

If we can take this core building block, alongside the fact that nomading, travel and lifestyle are social experiences that happen in the real world — we can build something novel.

People are stuck today trying to do logistics, reviews, comparisons and bookings on non-social apps (TripAdvisor, NomadList, Booking.com, Google) while trying to curate and present the social side on generalist social media (Instagram, X, YouTube).

Imagine instead, we leverage this new stack to build a location-centric hub combining the social and community elements of Instagram & Facebook, the travel and reviews element of TripAdvisor, the directory element of NomadList and the events element of Meetup.com.

Like a homepage for the city, where you can find people, communities, events, merchants, jobs, stats, meetups, accommodation, useful apps, travel and living guides, and of course, reviews and recommendations.

Something like this doesn’t exist today.

The City Home Page

People are craving a way to connect in real life, and while we have multiple social networks for different use cases: aesthetics (Instagram), the public square (X), friends (Facebook), addictive videos (TikTok), what we are lacking is something that ties digital and physical space.

The whole point of Satlantis is to build a framework for communities that bridges these, with your social graph at the heart of it. By leveraging the web of trust to fix reviews, we can build something fresh in one of the largest industries on the planet: travel / living & lifestyle.

Web of Trust meets Web of Interest

To do what we want to do, we must piggyback off the success of a protocol. There’s no other way to compete with the giant walled gardens. When Google, Netflix and Facebook were tiny, they outcompeted their predecessors not by building on a closed intranet or “information superhighway” built by Microsoft or the telcos. They bet on the open Internet stack, and alongside it, they grew.

The same opportunity now exists, and is happening, with Nostr, and we’re not the only ones who’ve noticed. People are using this portable social graph to reimagine ecommerce, influencer marketing, blogging, the public square and much more. The future is a whole host of new clients and applications that reimagine how the web is used.

We’ve already seen the first of their kind with the rise of Primal, Highlighter, Damus and the like. They combine an interoperable social graph with real preferences and value transfer (zaps).

It’s still early days but Nostr’s advantage is that every app built on it, adds to its overall network effects — much like the early internet. We will make a dent in our corner of the universe, which will be felt by every other corner — together making the entire Nostr network and broader Internet stack better, more relevant and more open.

The future of travel and lifestyle, and the reviews which influence it, is dynamic and relevant. Everything will be influenced by what you like, who you follow, what you find meaningful, your economic preferences and ultimately, by who you are.

This dynamic approach to reviews is the foundation of an entirely new kind of travel and lifestyle platform that will obsolete the Tripadvisors of the world.

Something like this is only possible when the rules of the game have changed. When there is a new set of ingredients to use. This is what the new Internet stack provides, and we intend to take full advantage, while everybody else is sleeping on it.

The team and I look forward to welcoming you into Satantis!

Aleksandar Svetski

CEO & Co-Founder
Satlantis

This essay was originally published on Highlighter: the Nostr enhacned version of Medium or Substack. Go check it out and set up an account (this automatically sets you up for Satlantis too):

https://highlighter.com/svetski/Reviewing-Reviews-lpinxc/

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