These observed effects might transfer from news sites into review sites, but Felix Reed-Tsochas, a professor of social sciences at the University of Oxford, said that the two types of sites were distinct from one another. "We are embedded in multiple social networks with many different types of ties," he wrote in an email. "It is not necessarily easy to understand how effects that are observed in one environment can be translated to another.
Regardless of the extent that Aral's findings might have on user reviews, any influence from other users can have major consequences. "User ratings are the second most important criteria to judge the quality of a product or service, after referrals from friends and family," he said. "I just had a baby and relied on online ratings to narrow down the doctors. That's a significant decision for which ratings matter."