On the Web, as in real life, what goes around comes around — just a lot bigger and faster. Partly because of the holiday season, but...

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On the Web, as in real life, what goes around comes around — just a lot bigger and faster.

Partly because of the holiday season, but also because of the massive broadband-driven shift of goods and services to the Internet, the issue of trust is once again in the forefront. Online shopping, up 29 to 33 percent this holiday season, is casting the spotlight anew on hordes of little Web companies with great products but almost no credit trail.

And social networking, propelled by the MySpace phenomenon but boosted by dating (Match.com), content (Gather.com), music (Bandspace.com), business (LinkedIn) and other sites, has drawn a locust-swarm of newbies into the maelstrom with no easily discernible track record.

Then there’s the content side, where the darling of Internet information-swapping, Wikipedia, is suddenly under fire for character assassination and bogus entries.

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The reason trust is rearing its tawdry head again is that we’re relying so much more on the Web. The more people, the more abuse. But self-correction has always been the Web’s strong suit. Signs are encouraging that help is on the way.

Last year’s disaster for Amazon.com, which experienced a 4.5 percent drop in customer satisfaction, does “not seem to be repeating itself,” said Larry Freed of ForeSee Results, an online customer-satisfaction management company.

Moreover, high-speed connections are enhancing the popularity of once-tricky online merchandise such as clothing (with orders up 38 percent from last year the week after Thanksgiving) and jewelry. Broadband-enabled video and audio, supplemented with 3-D and view-from-different-angles technologies, have boosted the comfort factor for online shoppers, Freed noted.

He sees a potential pitfall this year in misunderstandings over shipping charges, where customers think they’re getting free shipping but wind up being charged.

To address the trust situation, a new service is trying to leverage the Web’s self-correcting capabilities.

Opinity.com has set up a reputation-verification process with the ultimate goal of one-click, seal-of-approval certification.

Like the classic Amazon book-rating system, Opinity uses peer reviews, with the additional feature that reviews can be challenged by the subject.

The idea behind Opinity is to enable people to provide a Web shingle that says they are legit.

Opinity has some strong tech chops. But here’s something to think about: Hardly a week goes by that I don’t hear some complaint about an eBay deal gone bad or an online date from hell.

But I’ve yet to hear a complaint about craigslist, the online ad service.

It may have to do with one thing: To close a craigslist transaction, you deal with the other party directly, through e-mail and then usually face to face.

Building trust through personal contact — what a concept.

Seattle freelance writer Paul Andrews has written about technology for more than two decades. He can be reached at pandrews@seattletimes.com.