One thing that's been curiously missing from the social networking/user-generated content frenzy of the past few years has been efforts to harness these concepts to build good company databases. It's particularly surprising given the success of professional sites such as Jigsaw and Linked-In, both of which have built remarkably robust databases of business professionals. But where's the company information?
We have seen a few attempts at letting users build out company content. Two basic models have been employed to date: a "backbone" model, where users can append comments to a fixed list of companies, and the publisher takes on the task of maintaining basic company contact details. Successful examples of this model include Yahoo Finance, Vault.com and start-up yellow pages sites such as BrownBook. The other model is "free-form" model where users decide what companies to cover and in what way, with the publisher supplying no content, and few if any restrictions. One infamous example of this was the F*ckedCompany.com site, now mercifully defunct. We're seeing more and more company profiles within Wikipedia, but they tend to get lost in this vast online encyclopedia.
Will people take the time to contribute to an open access company database? Can such a database rise above angry posts from disgruntled employees and disinformation from disingenuous competitors? Will people share valuable inside information about firms? Will individuals maintain constantly changing company information? Well, it seems we may be about to find out.
A new company, TradeVibes.com, still in beta, is aiming to become a user-generated company database. It rolls together wiki-like features with rating systems, company discussion board, job boards and more. It also offers a strong organizational taxonomy to allow discovery of companies in addition to research on known companies. It may very well be a glimpse of the future.
There's a lot of fresh thinking going on at TradeVibes, and a lot to commend its content model. If TradeVibes can get critical market traction, it could herald the next big thing in the data world: high-value, user- generated company information.