As consumers warm up to e-commerce, analysts say they increasingly rely on the Net to research products and services--even when they buy from brick-and-mortar outlets.
Although Epinions' debut trails several months behind similar services on the Net--including review sites Productopia, Consumerreview.com, and Deja.com--the company hopes to differentiate itself from the competition. While most review sites offer professional reviews or reviews by unpaid volunteers, Epinions has a different system based on compensating authors whose reviews are most trusted.
The company said it will use its patent-pending technology to track the popularity and veracity of reviews and determine which ones are most trusted. These will be brought to the top of the site's reviews, and their authors compensated, as other less-popular reviews sink in rank.
The company also will pay experts in different product categories to give their opinions. Epinions will provide links to reviews and buying guides on other sites as well.
The Epinions site goes live tomorrow with reviews on automobiles, books, computers, electronics, movies, music, outdoor products, sports equipment, and travel destinations. The service will add several new categories in the coming months.
To maintain objectivity, the company said it does not create its own editorial content and will not sell products.
The company said it will make money by selling banner ads and participating in affiliate programs. The company has already signed on 30 affiliate merchants, which will pass on up to 15 percent of each sale made at the recommendation of Epinions. The company said other merchants have agreed to pay Epinions for driving traffic to their sites via clickthroughs, regardless of whether a sale is made.
Epinions was founded in April by Internet veterans from Yahoo, Netscape, and @Home. Epinions raised its first round of financing from Benchmark Capital and August Capital.