A Canadian startup announced it was building Peeple, a "Yelp for people," to debut in November. Response to the people-rating app, however, has not been positive, and it seems that the backlash on social media has been enough to make its CEO kill its most controversial features.
The app was created in response, perhaps, to the widespread feedback culture that prevails on social media, where restaurants, venues, and services are constantly held up to scrutiny on public forums. On Peeple, anyone who has your cell phone number can add you to the service, which is also linked with your Facebook profile, and start rating you. There, you can be ranked from one to five stars and other users can leave notes about your personality and behavior.
According to the Washington Post, who spoke with founders Julia Cordray and Nicole McCullough:
"People do so much research when they buy a car or make those kinds of decisions," said Julia Cordray, one of the app's founders. "Why not do the same kind of research on other aspects of your life?"
Marketers, too, could find potential in the app. AdWeek spoke with Dan Hou, VP of product strategy at Huge, who described the targeting benefits. "Let's say there's a guy out there with halitosis. Is it horrible to publicly call him out on it? Absolutely. But if it were me, I'd much rather someone tell me so I could do something about it. And Listerine would have a field day if they could target these individuals."
Yet concerns about cyberbullying have spoken loudest of all. One of the most controversial aspects of the app is the fact that anyone can add you if they have your phone number, but once you're on, you can't remove yourself. And, as with restaurant reviews, when people are motivated to go online to write a review, it's usually because they've got a bone to pick. The negative attention even caused Peeple's site to crash last week.
The creators of the app have scrambled to revise their policies. They've taken down the app's social pages and revised its website completely, now with a call to "join the positive revolution." In a post on LinkedIn, Corday wrote:
The answer is: It's real but not in the way it's currently being portrayed. We are in fact creating an app called Peeple and have every intention of releasing it at the end of November. Except, there is one thing I must tell you; this has always been a positivity app. Peeple will not be a tool to tell other humans how horrible they are. Actually, it's the exact opposite. Peeple is a POSITIVE ONLY APP. We want to bring positivity and kindness to the world.
The site's FAQ pages, still available via The Wayback Machine, say differently, however. Perhaps it is schadenfreude to see Corday fall victim to the negativity on the Internet her app would have surely encouraged. The app is still set to launch in November, and as of now the "positivity revolution," as posted on the app's website, is to start October 12. The terms of this are yet to be known. It seems likely that, given the onslaught of negative feedback, any permutation of Peeple would not have much success.