for the Workplace

If you've ever wondered what your officemates really make, may be what you're looking for. The free Web site, which bills itself as a

If you’ve ever wondered what your officemates really make, may be what you’re looking for. The free Web site, which bills itself as a “career and workplace community where anyone can find and anonymously share real-time reviews, ratings, and salary details about specific jobs for specific employers,” launches a public beta Wednesday morning. In other words, TripAdvisor for the workplace. More details from the release:

* Detailed company reviews. Glassdoor encourages balanced feedback in its company reviews and asks respondents to provide “pros” and “cons,” along with “advice to senior management”. These unedited accounts provide insight into what employees on the inside really think, showing the good, the bad, and a lot more in between.

* Employee ratings on workplace and leadership, including CEO approval ratings. Through a series of questions, users are asked to rate the company and a range of workplace culture factors, including areas like work-life balance, fairness and respect, employee morale, and senior leadership. Glassdoor also features CEO approval ratings, providing a real-time pulse of how employees think the person in the top job is doing.

* Compensation information by company and position. Unlike most salary services that only report aggregated data by generic position type and industry, Glassdoor provides details of salary, bonuses, and other compensation for actual positions and titles at specific companies. For example, users can see exactly what a software engineer at Google makes, along with bonuses and types of equity grants, in comparison to a software development engineer at Microsoft.

To see more than a sneak peak at four companies—Google, Cisco, Microsoft, and Yahoo—you have to complete a company review and salary survey. These are done anonymously, though you have to register with a verified email address. Once that’s done, you can see more than 3,300 reviews and salary reports on more than 250 companies, though 40,000 companies are listed in hopes of drawing contributions. Glassdoor has been in private beta, collecting data, for the past six months.

This promises to be more than the usual three-guys-in-a-loft Web 2.0 startup. The founders are former president Robert Hohman, who’s Glassdoor’s CEO; Rich Barton, onetime EXPE founder and cofounder and CEO of real-estate information site Zillow; and former Expedia exec Tim Besse, who’s vice president of product and marketing. The Sausalito, Calif.-based company got $3 million in a Series B round in March from Benchmark Capital, whose portfolio includes Zillow, eBay, Yelp, and others.

In a recent interview, Barton took pains to distinguish Glassdoor from F***, a dot-com-bust-era site that hosted juicy tips on failing Web companies that sometimes devolved into gratuitous slams and unconfirmed innuendo. By contrast, Glassdoor checks each submission before it posts to make sure it doesn’t compromise the anonymity of the contributor or other employees or reveal trade secrets or inside information.

Hohman and Barton say vaguely that the business model will be advertising. I could also imagine acquisition as an option, since Hoover’s or Yahoo could be interested in such a collection of data and reviews.

Clearly, though, employers themselves, as well as recruiters, would be likely advertisers, so “for this to work, it has to work for employers” as well as prospective employees, says Hohman. Glassdoor’s offering employers benefits such as free feedback to supplement expensive formal employee surveys and free competitive analysis of compensation.

For now, the company’s priority is to amass content. The reviews, not surprisingly, are heavy in the tech companies at this point. Even some huge companies like Citigroup have no reviews or ratings yet, so there’s a long way to go. Neither does my employer, McGraw-Hill, and I assure you I won’t be the first to reveal my salary or my opinions. Indeed, I think that people will be careful about revealing too-specific information about their job, salary, and opinions about their company for fear of being identifiable. Yet Glassdoor needs pretty specific information about jobs to be useful.

I also wonder how well this can scale up to potentially thousands of employers if each review has to be checked by a real person. Barton assures us can handle this, noting that TripAdvisor—now owned by Expedia and headed by CEO Stephen Kaufer, who’s on Glassdoor’s board—also checks each of its user-contributed reviews.

At the least, the reviews currently on the site can be entertaining. Here’s a partial review from one recent past employee of Google who was “dissatisfied” with the company:

Google pushes a highly “googley” atmosphere, which is something akin to what the Brady Bunch would be like if they lived in communist Russia. Everything from the carpet to the bathroom tiles incorporate the Google colors into its design. People are encouraged to have googley attitudes, wear plastic smiles, and not to question the infallible nature of the executive management group.