The wheels move fast at TripAdvisor - sometimes. The user review giant has temporarily removed a new rating system from product pages after scores of complaints this week.
TripAdvisor has been collecting ratings for hotels and other products such as activities, restaurants and attractions since November last year, a process where users could simply score a property on a scale of one to five, without leaving an actual review.
The site officially started showing the ratings against products earlier this week, but an outpouring of negative comments about its launch on forums and the hotel management centre intranet has led to it suspending the feature.
TripAdvisor admits it has "some work to do" with its implementation, thus the suspension today.
The rating was displayed on product pages alongside the information such as number of reviews, website (if applicable), link to booking services.
But a sudden influx of ratings from mysterious reviewers that had not been particularly active elsewhere on the site for months on end had prompted significant disquiet.
An official says:
"We are always open to the results of these tests and have listened to the valuable feedback we have had over the past few days.
"From this feedback, we recognise we have some work to do to ensure that ratings are as useful as they can be and so we have decided to remove displaying ratings from a business’s listing page today.
"We believe that the TripAdvisor community is seeking many ways to provide feedback, whether via ratings, photos, room tips or other opinions, and we will continue to look at ways to gather these opinions to help travelers plan and have the perfect trip.
TripAdvisor says it has not used the rating data to influence the Popularity Index used on the site position a product in terms of overall ranking.
The collection of the data was seen as a purely separate part of the user generated content element of TripAdvisor.
However, such was the ire from product owners (hoteliers, activity providers, restaurants, etc) that just one comment thread on the official TripAdvisor forum has run to almost 230 responses in a matter on days and another has attracted over 300 since the end of January when users and supplier started noticing the new feature.
Ratings were collected from either TripAdvisor members or - perhaps most interestingly given how much TripAdvisor has talked up its integration with external social networks - connected Facebook users.
Whether there was suddenly a widespread gaming on the system is unclear, but some activity has caused alarm in recent days.
For example, user Will83 had contributed three reviews since January 2008, but suddenly almost 560 ratings appeared under the profile in a matter of days - curiously, one of the biggest influx of new ratings by the user appeared on Christmas Day 2011.
While it is perfectly possible that the user suddenly realised that he or she could leaves ratings for all the places they had ever visited, there appears to have been no process put in place to evaluate each rating given.
TripAdvisor says it will continue to collect the ratings but will not display them on the site for the time being.
More to follow...