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One-way is the old way. The latest trend in e-commerce and internet marketing is the two-way rating system whereby the seller and the buyer rate each other. In theory this should hold both sides accountable and in most cases it does. But is it skewing results?

Take the travel industry for example. On TripAdvisor, which uses a one-way rating system, the average hotel rating given by users is 3.8. Airbnb, on the other hand, uses a two-way rating system and its average ratings are higher. Significantly higher.

"95% of Airbnb properties boast an average user-generated rating of either 4.5 or 5 stars (the maximum); virtually none have less than a 3.5 star rating", according to First Look at Online Reputation on Airbnb, Where Every Stay is Above Average. (source).

So why are these results so much higher?

Fear of retaliation. When your reputation is on the line, you're more likely to go easy on the review in the hopes that they will do the same for you.

The person is super nice, but their (fill in the blank) sucked. When your hotel room has bed bugs, giving a faceless organization a bad review is hardly unfair. How else to send a message through the ranks than a scathing review or tweet? Others should know about the abhorrent experience you had. But what if the faceless organization was a really nice person that you developed a great rapport with? Sure their Airbnb listing was not as stated but they were so sweet and helpful, what do you have to lose? In fact, you only serve to gain (see above).

So while two-way reviews might be skewing more highly, perhaps this relatively new business model is simultaneously creating a system built on honesty and accountability.

By design, two-way ratings protect everyone in a community. Airbnb knows that lending out your home to someone unknown is scary (so is renting someone's couch, but hey!), so by generating a feeling of community both parties are likely to feel a bit more comfortable and at ease.
(not) Anonymous. On Airbnb, your reviews show up on your profile, so you can't leave an anonymous review like you see on some sites.

Perhaps the two-way rating systems goes hand-in-hand with a new business model. A more appreciative, transparent model that holds both parties accountable to providing a better service. Or, perhaps not.

- Larissa Dundon

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