User reviews will become obsolete, says Oyster

User reviews generated anonymously will become obsolete moving forward as consumers seek professional advice backed up by recommendations from friends and family.

This is the view of Elie Seidman, co-founder and chief executive of of US-based start-up Oyster, which is aiming to combine professionally generated reviews with validation from friends and peers via Facebook Connect.

Oyster unveiled its service in June and currently provides hotel reviews for major cities in the US as well as Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Hawaii and the Bahamas.

Seidman told Travolution there would be a shift in the next five to 10 years with consumers no longer seeing value in anonymous comments and reviews.

“When we first launched we had our user comments wide open and we saw people commenting on their own reviews and properties so we closed down anonymous review content.”

Oyster users, who want to comment, now have to sign in via Facebook which, Seidman admitted, has its limitations but increases trust.

He said he didn’t agree with the argument that reviews are balanced out by volume. “It’s a lot of work to go through all those reviews and a lot of them are polarised in between people who love a property or hate it so I don’t buy the argument that it goes away with volume. It doesn’t really tell you anything.”

Oyster plans to add localised content for the UK and other English-speaking destinations by the end of the Q1 next year.

Seidman also said professional hotel reviews from European cities such as London, Paris, Madrid, Barcelona and Rome would be added by the end of next year.

Oyster’s will earn revenue from lead generation as well as display advertising and the company is also looking to add a price comparison function to the site.

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