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The reinvention of Peeple, an app that doesn't even exist yet

The reinvention of Peeple, an app that doesn't even exist yet
A woman uses a smartphone. The app Peeple was originally billed as "Yelp for people," but its creator has since decided to focus only on the positive. (Eric Audras / Getty Images/PhotoAlto)

Sometimes people use the Internet to be mean.

Shocking, we know. Especially shocking to Julia Cordray, who created an app nicknamed "Yelp for people," for users to rate their fellow humans, and then appeared surprised when actual people were less than enthused about it. Now she's saying it was really about "spreading positivity" the whole time, despite heaps of evidence to the contrary.

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On Sept. 30, the Washington Post published an interview with Cordray about her app, Peeple. (Not to be confused with the Internet-enabled smart home device that trademarked the name first.) She gushed about the proliferation of ratings websites and pondered aloud why you wouldn't want to leave 1- to 5-star reviews of the people in your life.

She told TechCrunch she had raised half a million dollars from investors, and the Post estimated her company's worth at $7.6 million based on shares. It's based in Calgary, Canada, though TechCrunch reports many of the people who built the app's technology work at Y Media Labs in Silicon Valley.

According to the app's FAQ section (which has since been removed), there was no way to remove your profile from the app once someone had added you, or to delete negative reviews or comments. People who knew you in a personal, romantic or professional capacity would all be encouraged to leave reviews in the same place: "Facebook, Tinder and LinkedIn all in one app," as she put it.

This did not go over well. People on Twitter threw around terms like "terrifying," "literally horrifying" and "a massive humanity fail."

The thinkpiece machine began churning, and there was a litany of pieces on why the site was a bad idea. "Last Week Tonight" host John Oliver pointed out that "the Internet essentially exists so that people can say vicious things about each other."

Cordray quickly learned what it feels like to have people (including celebrities) write unremovable bad reviews about you on the Internet.

On Friday, the app's website disappearedIts social media accounts and YouTube page quickly followed, as well as those of Cordray and app co-founder Nicole McCullough. Now, when you visit forthepeeple.com, you get a message about opting in for "the positive revolution."

According to Cordray, that positive revolution is what the app was all about to begin with. Oh, and it's definitely not a hoax, as many have suggested, she has said.

"This has always been a positivity app," she wrote Sunday in a post on LinkedIn (the only social media platform from which she has not yet flounced), where she said calling it "Yelp for people" had been a mistake. She went on to decry her own inability to delete the mean things people have been saying about her and her app. With Peeple, she added, "there is no way to even make negative comments."

Messages left for Cordray on Tuesday were not returned.

"Peeple will not be a tool to tell other humans how horrible they are," she wrote on LinkedIn. "Actually, it's the exact opposite. Peeple is a POSITIVE ONLY APP. We want to bring positivity and kindness to the world."

Her own site tells a different story. Although forthepeeple.com has been changed, the Internet is forever, and the Wayback Machine has screenshots from Thursday of the FAQ section. It explicitly and repeatedly mentions making negative reviews. It says your Peeple profile will include a star rating that aggregates both the positive and negative reviews others have made. It says negative reviews will remain on the site for one year.

Under the section "Meet Peeple," it elaborates: "Negative comments don't go live on the app for 48 hours; they simply go into the inbox of the person who got the negative review and then are given a chance to work it out with the person who wrote the review. If you can't work it out with the person you can publicly defend yourself by commenting on the negative review."

Cordray herself said in a video about the making of the app -- since deleted, though subsequently reposted to YouTube -- that of course the app would include negativity. "You can't please everybody," she says in the video, starting around 1:54. "I think it's important to know the negative too. I wouldn't want this app to just be positive."

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Though the initial launch date was in November, the site now seems to indicate the positive revolution will begin Oct. 12.

Feel free to let us know how you feel about that (in the format of a 1- to 5-star review) in the comments.

Twitter: @jessica_roy

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