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article imageControversial 'Yelp for people' app Peeple launches on iPhone

By James Walker     Mar 8, 2016 in Technology
Peeple, the highly criticized app that encourages people to rank each other in a similar way to a restaurant or location review, has launched on iOS. The app branded "Yelp for people" has undergone some changes since it first appeared online.
The initial concept failed to win many fans. Its creators, Julia Cordray and Nicole McCullough, were confronted with a torrent of abuse as the Internet expressed its hate for what they called a "positivity app."
The original version of Peeple was demonstrated in October last year. Users could place one-to-five star ratings on every other person on the service, accompanied by a short review. The person receiving the comments could read what others were writing but could not remove negative messages. Users could be registered by other people, making it possible for abuse to be sent over the network without the intended recipient even being aware of it.
The app was intended to give people a way to explore an individual's character before meeting them. Cordray said to the Washington Post: "People do so much research when you buy a car or make those kinds of decisions. Why not do the same kind of research on other aspects of your life?"
People weren't convinced though, and the app has since fallen largely silent after the original storm of media coverage. After a lapse of a few months, Peeple launched on iOS in North America yesterday. It has been revised with a few key improvements to make it less intimidating than the first prototype.
The rating system has been abandoned, replaced by "recommendations" that let users indicate whether they rate a person highly to other people on the platform. Recommendations are delivered based on relationship status with options for professional, personal or romantic.
Users now have to explicitly sign up to Peeple to appear on the service. They also receive control of their profile and can completely deactivate their user account, removing one of the major initial fears.
However, elements of the original concept persist, now hidden behind a paywall. An option to be added to the app in the near future will let users buy a $1 a month subscription to the "Truth License," an ability to read all the reviews written of other users whether posted publicly or not.
The app has been in beta since January. Cordray told The Guardian that over 10,000 people applied to be beta testers: 1,500 invitations were issued of which 500 accepted their chance to use the app before its public launch. According to Cordray, the testing period revealed that "people are very positive" and users "have enjoyed spreading kindness and accolades while reading what people really think of them."
The BBC reports that Cordray now sees the initial backlash to the app as a "positive thing." She said the company "could never have predicted" the scale of the negative reception but it "ended up being able to give the people what they wanted." Supposedly, that is the version of Peeple that landed in the App Store yesterday.
It hasn't been an easy journey to launch the app. A reference to "a couple of fights with Apple" in the company's launch announcement email indicates Apple was initially reluctant to give such a controversial app access to its store. It is now available for download though and any dispute with the iPhone maker appears to have been resolved.
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