“Reverse Craigslist” Zaarly Celebrates Its Birthday With A New Reputation System

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Call it a victory of emotion over technology.

Today Zaarly is launching version 2.0 of its “reverse Craigslist,” where people can ask for everything from a beer to help with data entry. The biggest change is that the buying and selling process is no longer anonymous. Instead, users can now create profiles on the site, and they decide when to expose them — either when they first post a request or when the transaction is about to take place. Users can now also review and recommend each other.

Co-founder and CEO Bo Fishback says the reputation system was developed after looking at what works and doesn’t work on dating sites like OKCupid. He admits that this is pretty much an about-face compared to Zaarly’s initial approach to identity. However, he says the company decided to listen to its service providers, who kept telling Zaarly that they want the buyers to know who they are.

“I was actually a really really staunch believer in anonymity in marketplaces,” Fishback says. “Technically, that’s right, it’s the correct way to work. Emotionally, it’s wrong” — people just want to know who they’re doing business with.

Zaarly also has a new recommendation engine, which actually suggests tasks that you can ask for. After all, what I want probably changes depending on where I am, and what service providers can offer will probably change, too. The recommendation engine can take advantage of events in real-time, too — so if you’re at South by Southwest and it starts to rain, Zaarly could recommend that you ask someone to bring you an umbrella.

I also asked Fishback about how Zaarly’s approach differs from one of the other hot startups right now — namely, TaskRabbit. He points out that Zaarly isn’t just about tasks, but also includes goods and experiences, and that 85 percent of its usage is mobile.

At the last South by Southwest, Zaarly launched its first prototype and hired its first employee. Fishback now says the prototype was a “piece of shit,” but it still attracted some positive attention, thanks in part to some positive attention from TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington. (Arrington later invested.)

Since its “real” launch in May, Zaarly was pushing constant updates to its app — until last fall, when Fishback realized that the team had enough big ideas to save them up for a big launch for its first birthday. So happy birthday, Zaarly.