Tekarma, a web site that compiles user-generated product reviews and tips in one place, launched its private beta last week. For now, the site is focused primarily on electronics, household items, cars, video games and sporting goods. Users have the ability to upload a product, or edit information for any of the others, including specs, description, reviews, FAQs, web resources, a general discussion board and even product surprises they my have encountered. Follow the link at the bottom of this entry to sign up for Tekarma’s beta.
The intuitive, Wikipedia-like interface makes it easy to update any piece of information about a product, and should be able to ensure decent accuracy if the site attracts enough users. For example, one of the pages for the Apple iPhone allows users to upload multiple pictures, provides a 4-star review pointing out some of the phone’s shortcomings, and answers questions like “how do I maximize battery life?” and “how do I reset my iPhone?” Someone has also posted a link under web resources to the phone’s latest software update. The top of the page, which includes a short product description, specs (pulled from Shopping.com but editable) and recommendations for where to buy the iPhone, also shows when the entry was last edited and by who.
Right now, the entries are pretty sparse, but Tekarma could potentially become a powerful and quick-responding alternative to calling customer support. The navigation between products and categories is fairly seamless and easy to follow, as is the process for creating a new product entry. And the left-hand sidebar includes a quality search option that turns up relevant hits, as well as past search results. Every user can customize his or her own profile page on Tekarma, including biographical information and a feed of added products, reviews and edits. With discussion boards a prime feature of the service, the site seems ripe for community-building in a way that Wikipedia isn’t.
Incidentally, the web site was started by engineering and executive alumni of eBay. Founder Alex Kazim says that he got the idea for Tekarma while working at the auction site, which hawks goods without the technical and customer support that accompany brand new products. While Tekarma offers a price-comparison tool, it is very clearly focused on users who have already purchased a product. Its founders say that its purpose may extend to shopping and buying if the concept takes off. As is, the service competes indirectly with FixYa (a site that posts product manuals and troubleshooting guides), and hundreds of less formal user forums — but they lack Tekarma’s professionalism and slick look and feel.
Cupertino, Calif.-based Tekarma is a subsidiary of social media company Tokoni (which also built MegWhitman.com, a community site for voters supporting the former eBay chief executive’s gubernatorial bid). Tokoni is a privately-held company backed by eBay and its founder Pierre Omidyar.
The site has provided 200 beta invitations for VentureBeat readers — sign up here.