Vanno Launches to Crowd-Source Corporate Reputations

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We’ve looked into various ways to use the web to unpack companies’ greenwashing — from GoodGuide, which collects data on companies and delivers a good ranking of products, to green sections of user-generated sites like Wikia. This afternoon, San Francisco-based startup Identity Commerce is launching a private beta version of its site Vanno, which features a company reputation index where users can submit news stories and vote on the reputation of companies, including aspects like environmental impact and social responsibility.

While the site isn’t fully open yet, the company is offering a number of Earth2Tech readers access to the beta site here, so go sign up and tell us what you think in the comment section. We’ve been tooling around the site this morning, and the experience works a lot like Digg, although the company says the algorithm behind it is substantially different. If the site brings in enough users, it could become a good way to track consumer opinion of companies’ sustainability practices and green actions.

But as for most crowd-sourced sites, the process of building up a dedicated audience for Vanno will be difficult. As many in the Web 2.0 world have learned over the past couple of years, sometimes developing a Facebook application is cheaper and easier. And oftentimes the success of sites like these depend more on things like marketing than a good idea or a nice design.

Identity Commerce was founded in April 2007 by Landon Clark and Nick DiGiacomo — who previously worked on three startups together — and the company is currently funded by the founders. The company tells us Vanno will be free to access, and revenue will come from advertising. If the idea of blending advertising and company reputation makes you suspicious, the company tells us in an email:

We have designed Vanno so that advertising does not in any way affect or influence company Reputation Scores or the Reputation Index…Company management, employees and shareholders can submit stories, vote and comment, just like any other users. We do allow — and indeed encourage — official company representatives to clearly identify themselves as such on the site. We’d like Vanno to be a place for civil dialogue among everyone with a stake or interest in companies — customers, employees, citizens, journalists, communities, shareholders and management.

One of the most interesting aspects of Vanno is that it gives a specific ranking to a company. Enter GM in the search box and you get back No. 187 out of 5,348. Type “Toyota” and you get back No. 1 out of 5,348. Gap is No. 32. The company explains the listing as accurately reflecting company reputations “when a critical mass of voices is captured.” While still in beta it’s hard to see how the site has enough users right now to make those listings really informative. But as the site brings in more users, that score will get more and more representative of public opinion.

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Nick DiGiacomo

Thanks very much for your profile of our company.

You’re point about advertising and reputation is well taken – it’s the same challenge newspapers face. We’re committed to maintaining the kind of firewall between our Reputation Index and advertising that the world’s great newspapers have between their content and advertising.

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