Thursday, March 15, 2012

Don't Trust the Web of Trust (WOT)

Web of Trust is a web site dedicated to informing its users about bad web sites that could potentially cause problems. Whether that be spammers, potential malware, or any other danger that lurks on the web. Just one problem though, it doesn't actually work. Well I shouldn't say that, it works, kind of in the same way the A-Bomb works.

Allow me to provide some back story.

I have been working on a site for doing code reviews called I purchased the domain through my web host in January of 2011. I held the domain for about a year and finally started working on the actual application at the beginning of 2012. I have done a few minor releases and today came to discover from a helpful redditor, that my site has a terrible reputation with Web of Trust. Which was a bummer but considering I had never heard of it before today I figured it would be fairly easy to fix or ignore. Then several people made similar comments so clearly this WOT reputation holds some merit.

It seems that around 2009 the domain was accused of spamming in some variety and blacklisted by a "third-party trusted source". All of that is probably true, I didn't own the domain at that time and I have no way of knowing who did, it was available when I purchased it. Anyway I own the domain now so I created an account on WOT and setup my site to prove that I owned it. If you check out the reputation page for my domain the "third-party trusted source" link doesn't even work!? So not only does your reputation not change even after 3 years but the "third-party trusted sources" that WOT uses don't exist anymore. Yet this tool that supposedly millions of people are blissfully using is passing judgements on domains without any kind of current references.

The fact that WOT is using 3 year old sources as Gospel is bad enough, but I can't get any of the past bad reviewers to come back and alter their review. It was 3 years ago they have probably moved on to other things. I did file for a new review and got one person to check it out and leave good feedback but the WOT algorithm is too dumb to properly weigh one current review more than several past ones so the reputation of of WOT is still bad.

If the algorithm doesn't work properly for improving reputation I would be very surprised if it worked for hurting reputation either. Meaning if hypothetically Facebook were to go bankrupt in a few years (it's a stretch but stranger things have happened). A malicious site could be put in it's place and WOT would give it an amazing rating and no matter how many times it was marked as bad it would probably still have an amazing rating because of all the prior entries that marked it as good are weighted just as heavily as any current entries that mark it as bad.

Bottom line if you are using WOT tools you are a fool. Not only are you letting yourself be frightened away from potentially good sites but you are buying into the mind set that nothing on the web changes.

I think the most annoying thing of this whole situation is that there is no one to contact directly to have issues like the non-existing "third-party trusted source" fixed. I just wonder how many other great sites have poor reputations because WOT isn't smart enough to realize that domains can change in an instant.

If you want to help me out you can give my site a positive rating at But an even better thing to do would be to stop using their tools and tell anyone who does use them what a joke they actually are.