RateItAll, a social network based around online reviews and opinions, has released a new distributed rating widget. It enables users to not only view (read) a widget, but to interact with it and enter data (write). The initial application for RateItAll's read/write widget is a blog feedback badge, which is the first of many distributed rating applications coming from RateItAll.
I spoke to RateItAll founder Lawrence Coburn about the release. He described the new widgets as "sort of like a cross between Power Reviews and MyBlogLog." He told me that the initial use case is blogs, but "soon we hope to hook it into our local business directory (like a distributed Yelp)." He told me there are lots of potential applications - e.g. for politicians, bands, movies, and things like MySpace profiles. With the widgets, RateItAll is aiming to be the de facto ratings infrastructure provider "for a significant chunk of the Web".
Here is an example, a ratings widget for this blog. You'll note Lawrence's rave review of Read/WriteWeb, which I should point out he actually wrote well before my review :-) As an aside, I actually met Lawrence in person at last year's Web 2.0 Summit, hence the reference in his review to drinking beer with me at the famous House of Shields bar!
As you can see, the widget is very slick and interactive. It was built in Flash, which is the latest trend in widget production. Technologies like Flash and Silverlight are being used nowadays to create rich, interactive widgets such as the RateItAll ones. Note that you can see other examples of RateItAll widgets on their blog.
So what will the feedback widget do for bloggers and readers? The primary purpose is to let readers rate, review, and give feedback on a blog. Ratings and reviews can be submitted without ever leaving the blog - it's all done within the widget. The benefits to bloggers include getting coverage on RateItAll's website, which reportedly gets 800K monthly uniques (reviews posted through the widget also show up on RateItAll.com). Bloggers can also enhance community around their blog and get regular feedback from their readers, via the widget.
Conclusion: read/write widgets are the new black!
Read/write widgets are going to be the next big thing on the Web (but I would say that!). You can see the potential in, for example, the recently announced eBay ToGo widgets. As Alex Iskold noted in his review of eBay ToGo, right now eBay's widget falls short of a distributed auction - as it does not allow users to do a transaction within the widget. To transact, users need to click through to the eBay website. Alex remarked that eBay will probably address this in the next iteration and create a truly distributed auction system, i.e. a read/write widget. I too am expecting this kind of interactive, transactional widget to become common place - and before the year is out.
To get a RateItAll widget for your blog, sign up here. It's a closed beta for now, so you need to submit your email address.