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  1. #1
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    Lightbulb Host Seal of Approval

    I saw someone mention something like this in a thread awhile ago. And, I thought it was a good idea.

    The basic concept would be having a set of standards that if followed would allow a web host to display a special seal on their site. Thus giving clients an instant way to identify hosts that follow accepted standards and practices, making them feel more secure, and hopefully increasing business for hosts displaying the seal.

    If something like this were to be done...

    ...as a host, would you use it?

    ...as a hosting consumer, would it make you more confident in your buying decision?

    ...what standards and practices would you want to be criteria for displaying the seal?
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  2. #2
    Webhostingstuff already do that.

    Its just one person or company's idea of whats "right" and its pure marketing.
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  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by FHH - Tim View Post
    Webhostingstuff already do that.

    Its just one person or company's idea of whats "right" and its pure marketing.
    Interesting. The WHS code of ethics seems to be more general business ethics though.

    I was thinking more along the lines of things like:

    - Host will retain a copy of the customer's data for X days after service is terminated.

    - Host makes clear all limiting factors of the service (inodes, CPU time, etc).

    - Doesn't oversell, or doesn't oversell beyond a certain percentage of actual available service.

    - Responds to properly submitted trouble tickets in X minutes.

    Etc. Things that pertain directly to the hosting industry, and directly affect users.
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  4. #4
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  5. #5
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    No one seems to offer such a thing without either some bias or more likely some type of affiliation or financial benefit for themselves. Let their own client base and the industry and their own survival determine whom is a trustworthy host or not. Who would be foolish enough to trust any of these current services that post your competition on their main page and allow advertising to have one host get more traffic than another? Or, having the service rate who they like most (or know, personally or make money from) and put them up higher on a list. None of those aspects determine what host is better, ever.

    I've never seen the best hosts listed at the top of any of these. Partly because it's not possible to have them really know, but it's always a matter of who generates more money to better place them (or who pays more for ad space). You are simply not going to find any such thing in a fair and non biased format. It's too bad, because it would be a good thing and prevent a lot of scam businesses from taking clients, but I don't see it happening without all of the negative side effects. For example, look at findmyhosting's main page to see what I mean.

    If they only provide "seals" for legitimate hosts that have their heads screwed safely on, then they are breaking their own ethical rules with some of the people they slap on their main page for advertising. Just a complete waste of time, let's be honest. The only real thing any host can do to stand out, is be willing to pay more for advertising than the competition. None of these people genuinely care about quality or have any desire to set any standards.

    I'd be willing to be part of some community or committee to determine what hosts qualify for a seal, but myself, along with everyone else here, is either hosted by someone, owns a host, works for a host and already have in mind of whom they'd push and there can never be a fairness, even if it appears so in the illusion it creates. It's better not to even attempt something like this, there are just too many vested interests and the "seal" approval would be no more valuable in reality than these web host listing sites when you consider how they really operate.

    Everyone's in this field to make money, and that's what determines whom raves about whom and how high or low they are rated, or where they are listed, and how predominantly. I don't mean to just be negative about the idea -- it's a nice idea -- it's just that I don't see how it could possibly work.

    It's not like a merchant seal or SSL seal to show you've met some requirements and are a business, there are too many variables and I just don't believe the people in the current hosting industry have it in them to be honest and non biased and ethical enough to get enough people together where vested interests wouldn't dictate who is placed where or approved or not. Again, it's too bad, since it would have the potential to do away with some of the fly by night hosts that have come and gone (and taken honest users money along with them).
    Last edited by Tim Greer; 04-10-2008 at 05:50 PM.

  6. #6
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    The biggest problem with a seal given based on fitting certain guidelines, is that it's all just words. A host can promise to or say it is ready to fit a lot of rules, and may even do so for a while. But who (and how) is going to make sure, day after day, that the X thousand hosts that have gained the right to put that seal on their sites, continue to uphold each and every one of the values/standards they're supposed to uphold?

    That is the problem with these seals. And we know all too well hoe fast a host can turn from good to bad.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by ldcdc View Post
    The biggest problem with a seal given based on fitting certain guidelines, is that it's all just words. A host can promise to or say it is ready to fit a lot of rules, and may even do so for a while. But who (and how) is going to make sure, day after day, that the X thousand hosts that have gained the right to put that seal on their sites, continue to uphold each and every one of the values/standards they're supposed to uphold?

    That is the problem with these seals. And we know all too well hoe fast a host can turn from good to bad.
    Agreed, and to add to that, most current "review" or "seal" sites simply rank big-name hosts the highest, so they can bring sales through their affiliate links.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by ldcdc View Post
    That is the problem with these seals. And we know all too well hoe fast a host can turn from good to bad.
    Indeed. Look at RegisterFly and ICANN for examples of seals and accreditations and such.
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  9. #9
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    @ Tim:

    Interesting thoughts. One of which I had actually kind of wondered about. Who would host something like this, and would they be eligible for the seal or would it be a conflict of interest?
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by ldcdc View Post
    The biggest problem with a seal given based on fitting certain guidelines, is that it's all just words. A host can promise to or say it is ready to fit a lot of rules, and may even do so for a while. But who (and how) is going to make sure, day after day, that the X thousand hosts that have gained the right to put that seal on their sites, continue to uphold each and every one of the values/standards they're supposed to uphold?

    That is the problem with these seals. And we know all too well hoe fast a host can turn from good to bad.
    It would certainly be difficult.

    One possible idea I had to help with it is kind of mystery shopper type thing. Where randomly, a rep from the "seal site" would sign-up with a host bearing the seal...and get first hand experience on whether the host is meeting the guidelines. Kind of line an IRS audit...where it doesn't happen all the time, but the fact that it could is always in there mind. User complaints about the host could be one thing that would increase the likelihood of an audit.

    In order to pay for the audits and to run the system, it could be a subscription service. Kind of like HackerSafe, where you pay to be evaluated, and if you pass you can show the seal. Except in this case the audits would be random and secret.
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  11. #11
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    There isn't any official organization that is Internet wide, so the Host Seal of Approval provided by many separate organization does not hold much weight.

  12. #12
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    How would accepted hosts be decided?

    The WHS seal is free and super-easy to get hold of, it is only for marketing and holds no real value or weight (so, it's the same as their 'uptime' badges ).
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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Political Monster View Post
    How would accepted hosts be decided?
    Good question. Don't know.

    Perhaps upon initial registration there would be a review of the host's TOS and website to be sure they comply. The host would have to agree to abide by the standards required for the seal...and if found to be in violation, they would be ineligible to reapply for 6 months or something.

    Another thing upon initial registration would be a thorough review of all recent complaints against the host found via google, WHT, better business bureau, etc. Purpose being to see if there are any practices which appear to violate the seal standards and to see if the host has resolved their issues. If a list of a few existing customers can be obtained, they could be interviewed as well.
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  14. #14
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    In some instances, it's not that hard to work out, and it's all about finding people that won't be influenced, but there are just too many what if's to make it a trustworthy, non biased and valuable option for some of the hosts that are honest. There are hosts that are raved about at WHT alone that I don't think are very good, and I'm sure there are complaints about hosts that are often enough not deserved, due to the lack of a client's understanding where blame lies and how much support a host should offer. People at WHT often clear up to the poster that it's not the hosts' fault, but that's only because they outline their issue on the forum.

    How do we determine if they are complaint free enough for a seal and if those reports are legitimate or not (and if so, if the staff that perhaps badly handled the incident that resulted in a legitimate complaint was corrected and are far better at their job now or perhaps were terminated as to not have a repeat). Also, who determines what host is deserving and how knowledgeable and biased are they?

    For example, I know some hosts are terrible, but you can't go on past experiences, so you do secretly sign up, try them out and maybe you see they appear to be okay, but you know it won't last long (but you can't prove that, for now). So, how much time do you allow to determine this? How about a good host that has a rare problem that might not have one for a very long time, but as far as you know, it's common? Is this just making sure they are following their TOS or are there other aspects?

    I just don't know overall, but I do know that with some raves I see even here about massive oversellers and hosts that are ran by clueless people getting praise often enough, I would be concerned that some of these would get the seal, which makes it worthless, because regardless of some happy clients raving about them, they are barely functioning and are absolutely unable to provide what they promise.

    So, it seems like a potential for a lot of wasted time, unless the right people were involved. Obviously I'm basing who the right type of people are in my own view and opinion and who's to say that I'd be agreed with? The only way people could feel happy and safe about a seal being meaningful in this industry, is if each of us either completely agreed about every aspect of the process, or all each started our own seal service that would review and approve sites or not.

    Then, it would be up to the client to determine which seal "brand" is actually the better one (for what they are looking for and for their own views). So, I say this couldn't work, and that it still would come down to the client being happy or not. Obviously most of the review sites rate and promote based upon financial reasons, affiliations, friendships, and so on, and most of the ratings are skewed by people with vested interests, if not the company's themselves. I don't see this as being any different.

    All anyone can do to drive business, is try and run a good company with good staff, and even (unfortunately) more importantly, to just be willing to spend more on marketing than the competition -- that is the only secret to getting more clients, as few seem to actually care about seals and accreditation. Unfortunately for the potential clients that might care about these things, you just watch what happens with the big oversellers (whom are often raved about for no good reason) and how they'll react and discredit the approval seal service, too.

    I don't mean to sound cynical, but I just don't trust the accuracy of the idea, and there's already too many aspects that are frustrating in this industry that a lot of us are tired of seeing, because the people that make the decisions for some of these "services" are wrong or biased or have vested interests. I've yet to see any that don't. I just easily see there being abuse in the position by at least one member of a board that would decide.

  15. #15
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    I used to think Geek Certified might be something to go for.... but the minute I saw advertising on their website - I said forget about it.

    In short - why send a potential customer to a site that lists "the top 10"
    I think a good alternative would be a service like RatePoint... or the BBB

    In short - its hard to have the "Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval" because everyone currently offering it charge - sell advertising - ... or otherwise can lead your clients elsewhere.

    I would love to see something come along that rates a host based on a few things

    1. uptime
    2. client satisfaction
    3. secret shopping
    4. secret support request
    5. BBB rating

    In reality - we have not used any of these services - although we keep having RatePoint sales contact us...

    I just don't see the value in these...
    I do not think clients will trust them - and those that do - are linked to other providers...
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  16. #16
    Well that's the thing...who decides what standards are fair, and what keeps (as someone mentioned) a site from ranking a host higher just to promote their affiliate links? WebHostingStuff does it kinda (and I use it on my site), but does someone actually monitor hosts to see if they're holding up their end of things?
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  17. #17
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    WebHostingStuff is completely out -- I don't see how they even come close to offering anything near what we're talking about -- they have top 10 lists and take advertising and display banners, etc. No way would someone like them work or add any value or trust in something they offer regarding any seal or approval process.

    If such a seal committee/site existed, it would literally have to have no advertising and no host lists anywhere on the site. There would be no need for it to have either of those on the site anyway. It wouldn't cost much of anything to run and would have to be done by volunteers only, and operate as not for profit (not even donations). No web host lists, no advertising, just a verification service that's not affiliated with any web host.

    No registrant or name servers should be connected to any host, and even where it's hosted could make a difference (lead people to believe that if the service is hosted on X provider, that X provider must be a good provider, or even better than Y or Z provider, else why would the committee be hosting there and not somewhere else?), so they'd have to be hosted by a neutral provider, using neutral name servers and have the whois information protected so no one has more to gain over another by being involved, creating the site or anything of that nature. I know that sounds extreme, but you're looking to open a big can of worms if a lot of conditions like that aren't met.

    In fact, anyone that works for, is hosted at or owns a web host, etc. wouldn't be able to say where they work or how they are involved. Maybe even the names of the people involved would create an issue. Not that the site would have to say who they are affiliated with, but I promise you that when someone has to prove something or is looking for a job, you can be sure that they or someone they know will be mentioning the fact that they are on the committee to add credibility to what they say or something like that.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by hostmaxpro View Post
    Well that's the thing...who decides what standards are fair, and what keeps (as someone mentioned) a site from ranking a host higher just to promote their affiliate links? WebHostingStuff does it kinda (and I use it on my site), but does someone actually monitor hosts to see if they're holding up their end of things?
    That's just it, there would be NO ranking, NO site listings and NO advertising. There's NO need for any of that sort of thing if a seal approval service is to be taken seriously and mean anything.

    It would simply have to be "do they meet X, Y and Z requirements", and if yes, they get a seal. If not, then they are denied a seal. It would also need to be done interactively, in real time, so it shows the seal if valid or not, so no one can as easily slap it on their site fraudulently (because you know some people will try).

    The who decides and what are the determining factors in deciding, are what's important. But again, there are so many small things that could be seen as suspicious even if the people involved made every effort to not seem biased. People ARE going to be biased in some manner or another, there's no way to avoid that. It's if they allow themselves to be influenced and if the other people involved ensure that it isn't allowed to happen.

    There are actually a lot of things that would need to be done and agreed upon, and then after all of that effort, who is to say that people will (or should) trust the seal of take it seriously anyway? I like the idea that the massive oversellers can't get the seal due to their trickery and lies, but a client will be able to discern that by the plans and promises alone that a mass overseller is a bad choice or not, so a seal on the one's that are sane and true about their plans won't matter to that client.

    So, I'm not sure what purpose this could serve, since it would be aimed at the client base. I think it's just a matter of so many people wanting such a service so they can put the seal on their site to hopefully get more clients or prove they are better (or have a better reputation) without letting the client base and the industry as it is now prove it or not on its own merit(s). That is effectively what it all comes down to anyway.

    I just don't know about this, it sounds nice in a way, but there's no way to prevent corruption, abuse or bias and so what gives anyone a reason to use it, apply for it or put any trust in such a thing to take it seriously -- an what are the overall benefits and purpose of it when you consider all of the aspects?

  19. #19
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    I definitely agree, if this were to actually happen there could be no host rankings, no advertising, and would have to minimally reside on a white label host or host itself independently.

    And, kind of like other seals that are out there for SSL and such, you could always click the seal to verify the status. And, the seal itself could be a generated image with the current date and such to help make stealing it difficult.

    I think a major issue would be the mystery shopper/audit stuff. Something would have to pay for that. So, you'd have to make it a paid subscription service or make the hosts agree to refund any fees after the audit. The other major issue would be building credibility to begin with. A site like WHT could probably pull it off pretty easily as they're well known and respected in the industry, but starting from scratch it might be difficult and costly.
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  20. #20
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    Honestly, I don't agree with some stuff WHT does or how they do it, so I'd have a problem with that even. I'm not being difficult, I'm just saying it would need to be so unbiased that it would be unique in that manner -- no one even comes close. I think an idea like the BBB is best. No advertising or rankings, just what the user submits and have a committee of people attempt to verify it and how that might affect their seal being approved or not, or revoked. That way, there's no signing up for a host or doing anything but doing an initial check to see that they qualify by what's presented on their web site.

    Once established with the seal for that host, people can file complaints (no positive reviews to rank any host), and just see if it's legitimate and the complaint is proven and if the host doesn't take care of it, then they can have a mark against them and after so many marks, the seal/approval is revoked. I don't think it would work any other way. I just see too many issues and just like another thread, it could lead to hosts not being taken seriously or professionally, because who would have any reason to believe the seal means enough to add any trust.

    I like the idea, because you could verify if a company has been in business for the duration they claim, if they are really an LLC, LLP, Inc, and so on, and where they are located, if their address and phone number on their site and whois is valid/accurate and that they aren't running their site with plans that make them appear like a clueless kid that's just trying to undersell everyone, or don't offer refunds no matter what, etc. Obviously there have been some cases that were exactly those problems in the last few months on WHT, before the host finally disappeared altogether.

    So, a seal approval committee could review some basic things before allowing them to have it. It could add some trust for potential clients for that reason, and a BBB type of setup where people could file complaints would allow the committee to re-review a host that might have taken a turn for the worse and modified their information, plans or contacts and so on.

    There's a significant limit to what could be reviewed or re-reviewed and how it would be handled, but it could be done in a way that ensures that people whom legitimately use an interactive, real time logo would indeed be a workable format. It can't involve costs, not beyond perhaps some cheap dedicated server somewhere so no other host is affiliated at all, but you couldn't ask or want hosts to pay or donate, so it would have to be an out of pocket deal for the volunteers by the sound of it, because there can be no "sponsor" or "hosted by" stuff anywhere on the site.

  21. #21
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    Web Hosting Stuff not only are bias in terms of Top 10 host, they even allow web host to act as a consumer and post reviews about themself....
    To them, as long as you have the money, everything is possible.
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  22. #22
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    Obviously the listing sites want to make money, so I don't blame them, but they shouldn't pretend to be a reviewing site. Also, their "top 10" are seriously skewed and incorrect. Perhaps the top 10 of the hosts they list based on their traffic they get, but it's set up to appear as if those are the top 10 best hosts, or even the top 10 in general (not for their web site alone). Most of the review sites are scams for the site owner to make money (by affiliation or banner placement), which means having your site also listed there is pointless... and the last thing I'd ever do is pay to be listed (free listings never hurt, unless they or your competitor they are affiliated with sink to giving your business poor reviews or not have all of the positive one's show). I'm not paranoid to think that this is the case in general, but the rankings and ad space sales just defeat the purpose and it only ends up being a site that aims at one, two or 10 actual hosts and nothing else, which is utterly useless for potential clients to visit anyway.

  23. #23
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    There are lots of different "seals of approval" about, as a host I've never bothered with them because I have always thought the educated customer would know that they are really not of much value because it is typically quite easy to obtain them

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