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ExRated takes common decency out back and shoots it in the head

Spurned, sad, vindictive, and jealous? Have we got a site for you!

A poor review from an anonymous source? Yeah, I believe it. Screenshot by Rafe Needleman/CNET

From the "Department of Is That a Joke?" comes ExRated, the new site where you can review your exes. As in, ex-lovers, ex-wives, ex cetera. It is one of the most hurtful, immature things I've seen on the Web, and I've reviewed about 2,000 startups.

Briefly, ExRated (that's .co; the .com is actually an X-rated site) lets you rate the people in your life who are no longer in your life. You must identify these people by name (otherwise, how could their next potential connection find the review?), but you, as a reviewer, hide behind an online handle. Combine the fact that the site only allows anonymous commentary with the focus of that commentary, and it is a recipe for unsubstantiated pettiness and libel.

Reviews can only be 140 characters long, which is supposed to prevent the creation of detailed and hurtful rants. But as we know from Twitter, you can do a lot of damage in that space.

I tried out the site, and found a review of woman here in San Francisco who I was then able to find on Facebook. She sounds like a horrible person. But consider the source: a spurned lover, who we know nothing about. The review could be complete fiction. We have no idea. It's certainly not a complete picture of the person being reviewed. Nor does ExRated allow people to reply to negative reviews or to "own" their own profiles.

There is, to be fair, something to be said for a site that tries to hold people accountable for their actions and their relationships. And the trend towards online rating systems is extending to people, especially in professional profiles. And finally, there are positive reviews on this site. Not every relationship ends badly.

But let's weigh ExRated's potential for adding constructive and useful information to the world against the likelihood that it will be used as a vehicle for cheap revenge, to cause unnecessary pain and possibly damage lives. What do you think will happen?

As Gizmodo says, probably nothing, because it's unlikely this site will get used a lot. Let's hope that's the case.

There's no Rafe's Rating on ExRated. The founders of this service and I could not find a time to do an interview today.