Likaholix: new recommendation engine enters private beta

Two former Google employees, Bindu Reddy and Arvind Sundararajan, have launched a private beta of a new recommendation site named likaholix.  You can request a beta account from the site.  It took 14 minutes for my invitation to hit my GMail account.

The sign up process was quick and easy, and the site is pretty responsive — much better than a lot of other beta releases I’ve seen, but then again “beta” seems to mean “production” in Googlespeak.

Taking a cue from Twitter, right at the top of the page is a box to enter a link or name of something you like.  I typed in “Geeks are Sexy” (naturally), and this site came up at the top of the results (followed immediately by our old site).  After selecting our site, I got the following panel for entering information:

You can enter your comments and some keywords on the left.  The “Add location” link just adds a short input field for the location.  That would be useful for recommending a restaurant or other brick and mortar business.  As for us, we’re everywhere.

On the right side, likaholix searches for pictures and videos that might be related.  You can see that they picked our header graphic first in line.  If you don’t see what you’re looking for, you can click the “Add media from web” link to enter a URL for an image or video of your choice.

You can import reviews from Yelp and Amazon, but because likaholix is all about liking things, it only imports reviews with 4 or 5 stars.  I don’t have any qualifying reviews on Yelp (being a snarky kind of guy), but I tried to pull in my Amazon reviews unsuccessfully.

Hmm.  Beta.

Likaholix also allows you to automatically push your reviews out to Facebook , Twitter, and Friendfeed — and you can import contacts from GMail.

Based on the things you’ve liked and the topic names you’ve assigned to them, likaholix builds recommendations for you from other people’s likes:

As you can see, an RSS feed is available for these recommendations.  The feed doesn’t include as much information  as this page does, but each item in the list is a separate RSS item that can be clicked to get to the full story.

I guess you can tell these guys are from Google by their search engine.  I entered “restaurants on bainbridge island” expecting to get nothing, and it came up with 20 results (just about every place serving food on the island except for McDonald’s).  One of our favorites is Sawatdy Thai Cuisine, so I clicked on it and wrote a quick review.   Likaholix automatically picked up the address and phone number, and plotted it on a Google map.

The “explore” function lets you browse by topic, most recent, or by the people who posted.

Overall, I find this site to be very intuitive and responsive.  Two questions remain:

  1. Will people use a recommendation engine that is only positive?  I can see it for questions like “where do I find a good <name that service>?”  But it won’t tell you anything about bad experiences that others may have had with something you find recommended there.  Not that Yelp hasn’t had its share of controversy over bad reviews.
  2. How will the site make money?  We can assume through advertising, but what kind?  Will they use a sponsorship model, like Yelp?  Or will they look to Adsense to serve up targeted ads?  Currently, I don’t see any ads on the site — but then, it’s still in private beta.

I guess we’ll know that likaholix is a success when someone starts a Likaholix Anonymous.

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