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Using human input to enhance Web safety

WOT Services Ltd.
Born out of an idea of two students in Tampere, Web of Trust (WOT) has rapidly become the world’s leading community-powered safe surfing tool – helping users find sites that can really be trusted and enabling companies like Facebook and Mail.ru protect their users.

With the continued growth and increasing complexity of the Internet, the threats the Web poses – and the nature and extent of these threats – are also steadily growing. In addition to viruses and malware, phishing, scams, bad online shopping experiences, and untrustworthy content are becoming increasingly widespread.

Seeing where things were going, two postgraduate students at the Tampere University of Technology, Sami Tolvanen and Timo Ala- Kleemola, hit on the idea of WOT in 2005. They wanted to create a system where people could share their real-life experiences of different sites, and widen the scope of Web safety from purely technical security to helping people find sites that they can actually trust.

Input from millions of users

WOT has rapidly become the world’s leading community-powered safe surfing tool and is now used by the likes of Facebook and Mail.ru.
WOT is based on a free browser add-on – available in add-on galleries and at www.mywot.com – that users can use to rate sites according to their trustworthiness, vendor reliability, privacy, and child safety. Based on user ratings and trusted technical sources, WOT then calculates the reputation of these sites, using traffic light-style icons displayed via search results, social media platforms, webmail, and many popular sites. Green indicates a trustworthy site, yellow tells users that they should be cautious, while red indicates a potentially dangerous site.

WOT uses sophisticated algorithms to detect and eliminate any attempts to manipulate its findings, and ratings are computed every 30 minutes to ensure that they are always up-to-date.

Launched in 2006, WOT rapidly became popular and reached its millionth download two years later. It has now been downloaded over 35 million times and the global WOT user community has rated over 36 million websites, making it the world’s leading community-based safe surfing tool.

Making things safer for everyone

All WOT ratings are stored in a unique reputation database that can be used in a variety of different ways. This flexibility led to Facebook selecting WOT as its first security partner in May 2011. All links posted in Facebook are now checked using the WOT reputation database and users are alerted when they navigate to external sites that have a poor reputation rating. Russia’s largest email service, Mail.ru, also now uses WOT to warn its users of untrustworthy links.

WOT in a nutshell

  • Helps users find trustworthy sites based on actual human experience
  • Simple traffic light-style reputation icons show whether sites are trustworthy, should be approached with caution, or avoided
  • Reputation ratings are based on input from millions of users and trusted technical sources: this input has resulted in the creation of a unique reputation database
  • Add-on available for Firefox, Internet Explorer, Chrome, Safari, and Opera
  • Free for private users and available for corporate use via a corporate license.
> Anna-Leena SiliƤmaa
(Published in HighTech Finland 2013)