Khris Loux, the CEO of startup JS-Kit, thinks he’s finally come up with the killer widget. JS-Kit has all sorts of widgets used by blogs and other sites for ratings, reviews, polls, and comments. But the latest one he just launched is not just gee-whiz cute. It’s gee-whiz disruptive.
It is called the JS-Kit Advisor. And it will bring ratings and reviews from trusted sources such as Experian and JD Power to businesses and product listings across the Web. The first data partner to go live is Experian, which is known for its consumer credit scores. But Experian also keeps financial and other background-check information on 22 million local businesses across the country. For instance, Experian powers ContractorCheck.com, its own Website where consumers can buy $10 background-check reports on local general contractors. But now Experian is taking some of that same key information and giving it away for free in JS-Kit’s widget.
A local listings site could install the widget and then anytime someone looked up a contractor, the widget would pop up and show them if the contractor’s license is expired, how much they are bonded for, and whether they have any liens or judgments against them, as well as their credit and bankruptcy history. “In other words,” says Loux, “all of the information that a bank uses to judge you, the consumer—the consumer can now use to judge a business, prior to clicking through.”
A green check means the contractor can be trusted, a red X means keep looking. The widget does not give the full details of a report, but enough for a consumer to know whether to steer clear of a certain contractor. Loux explains the concept:
I want to make sure the guy is not a dirt bag. This will bring more data around the point of the transaction. If a guy has a green check mark, he can grab it and show it off. The guy with the red check will hide the fact that he is a dirt bag and try to do marketing and SEO stuff. Those who are winners will win more and those who are scumbags will die faster.
It’s good marketing for Experian, and maybe it will end up selling the more in-depth reports to banks or those contractors with a red X next to their name who want to see how it got there.
But isn’t all that marketing and “SEO stuff” how directories and local search engines make money, by selling ads to those guys? “Web publishers will start competing using the truth,” responds Loux, always the idealist. Yet business directory sites like MojoPages and Spoke are already working to integrate the background-check widgets into their listings. If bigger sites like Yelp or CitySearch ever followed suit, unscrupulous contractors would have nowhere left to hide.
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You can try it here by clicking on each contractor’s name in the simplified listings at left. The top one has a green check, the bottom one has a red check. When the widget pops up, click on the different tabs for more information.
The idea behind this widget goes way beyond exposing Experian’s data, although that is pretty awesome in and of itself. The widget can have many tabs, each with a different source of data. Loux has also struck a deal with JD Power to provide product review summaries, and with FamilyWatchDog to incorporate its health records for restaurants, product-recall information, sex offender listings. He has hopes for convincing more companies to add their data for job listings and other categories.
At this point, Loux’s widget is disruptive only in its potential. But if he can get it adopted by both enough data and listings providers, he argues that it could start to impact everything from search to banner ads.
Everyone wanders around on the Web in a dog pattern. You start at Google, look around, and go back. And every time you go back to Google they go, “Ka-ching!” This is the promise of Web 2.0 that has not been delivered yet—these fine connections. It is a big threat to PageRank and the inefficiency of Internet advertising, because everything you want is at you fingertips.
PageRank will no doubt survive the onslaught of Khris Loux and his widgeteers. But he does raise a compelling point about the power of widgets to distribute information to people where they need it. And the idea of spreading information from trusted sources across the Web to counter the (mis)messaging of marketers and vocal users who might happen to be wrong is also something that more Websites should think about doing.