Bootstrapping Online Trust — wait, what?

I saw my father lend some money to his friend’s friend Satya a long time ago. Satya was in a dire need and my father helped him out. I think it was around 6 months later, when Satya returned my father’s money with some extra as a token of gratitude to help him get through in tough times.

This particular story left an impression on me. It was odd. An unknown person needed money and father happily helped him. I never thought he will ever see that money again. I realized it was peculiar to me because I did not know his friend or Satya well and had neither the scale nor the experience to put him on to judge whether he will return the sum or not.

Years later, I did the same thing and that got me thinking about the most fundamental component that the society and relationships are built upon; trust. It is an underlying asset to any interaction or transaction that people have. We don’t think much about it because it is so deeply ingrained within us, and that it has become a primordial instinct.

You need trust between two parties in any setup to convey any kind of message or feeling. A trust-less society will dive deep into a dystopian despair where everyone is concerned about their well being. It will be a society that will not let anyone breathe without being paranoid. Everyone will be on their heels, fearing the worst intentions of their fellow civilian. It sounds like an Orwellian reality but this will be the product you will get if trust suddenly disappears from the fabric of society that it helped sew.

“Yes, Mr Writer, you made your point. We understand why trust is important. But I’m not seeing your agenda here, I’ve more things to do and my time is limited.”

You see my agenda is not that simple. I’m not sure if it is an agenda. I’m just contemplating on what trust has become in today’s day and age?

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You see.. with the onset of the sharing economy, traditional trust mechanism has taken a downward spin to the abyss.

There are two essential components that are required to establish trust between two or more individuals —

  1. It requires certain friction. Some back and forth to establish a baseline.
  2. It demands multiple interactions and some time to develop implicit trust beyond a strong baseline.

These two amenities come together to create a bond. But this mechanism seems to evaporate when it comes to Web 3.0.
People have started becoming open to several ideas of interacting with strangers on these new platforms — going to meet them for a date or to get into their car, or to stay in their house or to buy a used item from them, without any prior knowledge of who they are interacting with. Users believe that these platform companies must have had some well-established system that works in the backend to understand their users or develop a baseline for trusting these strangers. I mean, how could they not…

…and then, it hit the ceiling.

People started figuring out the loopholes in the system and the biggest of them being a lack of actual trust or everyone being too liberal with who they trust.

And, this came with a huge consequence.

The core functionality of platforms that enables services in this Web 3.0 world is to connect people but we don’t see that’s not all they are doing. These platforms are also meant to enable its users to transition from their online platform/app to an offline service like actually meeting people in person. And therein lies the grey area.

How do you know who you are meeting is not going to harm you? Traditional Know Your Customer (KYC) system is a tedious method and doesn’t work for the modern online services. Especially when we are dealing with such a large number of users. Even if it did work, KYC is a proof of their identity (that they actually exist); it does not tell you what type of person you are dealing with. In the world of online platforms, there is virtually no difference between someone who has never committed a crime and someone who is in jail for a fraud. The purpose of KYC almost becomes redundant. Back to square one.

I find this shift in trust very fascinating and perhaps that is what drove me to research, write and work on this problem. It has started to become clear to me, that with the misplaced trust or lack of established trust in today’s internet economy — it is imperative to figure out a solution to this problem. We can see online identities leaking into the offline world and the convergence of both is imminent, it has become crucial to find a solution to this problem.

We, at Credible Ninja, are working to address this problem; establishing trust among people, generating credibility and making platforms more secure.
If you are a modern internet business that exhibits implicit trust, what do you think about this problem? If you are a person who has had a great or a bad experience with these trust-less interactions, what do you think? Would love to see your thoughts in the comments section below…

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