November 14, 2012

Snoox: Recommendations from friends, not strangers

New social utility lets you pull high-quality recommendations on most topics

Target audience: Start-ups, recommendation sites, travelers, diners, shoppers, Facebook users, businesses, educators, journalists, general public.

JD LasicaToday a new social recommendations engine launches and tries to answer the fascinating question: Are we ready to usher in an era when friends’ recommendations matter more than those of experts and strangers?

The answer is far from clear. But I like the concept behind Snoox quite a bit.

Earlier this month I sat down with CEO Eyal Rivlin and founder Guy Poreh (pictured below) at a cafe in San Francisco to talk about the new start-up, which has offices in Tel Aviv and New York, and the future of the social Web. Snoox aspires to be a social application that helps users to share recommendations for the things they love and to find the best of everything from the people they trust most: their friends.

It’s a promising concept, given that studies now routinely show that people trust their friends and peers more than experts and established institutions. And as much as I admire Yelp, the site has a pretty high noise level, with lots of recommendations from people with awful taste and other reviews penned by dodgy charlatans. And besides, Rivlin adds, Yelp is mostly known in New York and San Francisco and hasn’t crested yet in middle America. (Europe’s counterpart to Yelp is Qype.)

Eyal, Ayelet & Guy
CEO Eyal Rivlin, Ayelet Noff & founder Guy Poreh of Snoox (Photo by JD Lasica).

Enter Snoox. Each day people make decisions on where to go, what to do, and what to purchase based on friends’ suggestions offline. Snoox takes these interactions online by sucking recommendations out of Facebook, as well as recommendations on the site itself, and creating searchable social recommendations on any topic – all in a nicely packaged image-based site. Snoox is currently available on the Web and as a Facebook app with other platforms to follow (the Snoox mobile app is due to launch in January.)

Do you want to be standing in a subway car asking strangers where you should go eat?

“It’s friend recommendations on steroids,” Poreh said. “There is nothing more powerful than a recommendation from friends. Otherwise, it’s like you’re standing in the middle of a subway car and asking, ‘Guys, what movie should I see tonight? Where should I eat?'”

Say you’re planning a trip to Barcelona. Would you rather consult Trip Advisor and the guide books — or rely on the tips of one of your Facebook friends who lives there? (Admittedly, having a large network on Facebook expands their potential social firepower.)

Or say you’re looking for a hotel and want to take in a Broadway show. Wouldn’t you want to hear suggestions from one of your Manhattanite friends? Or, friends of your friends?

That’s one trick to making this work: sucking in right signals and presenting the information in a coherent, cohesive package, complete with metadata — just the facts, ma’am — along with photos and your friends’ thumbs up. In addition to scooping up Facebook friends’ suggestions, Snoox also wants you to pipe up and share your recommendations on its site.

Core categories from eateries to technology

At launch, Snoox will focus on popular categories such as travel (including hotels), music, technology, restaurants, fashion, TV shows, movies, books and social media, with different influencers holding forth in each topic area.

Says CEO Rivlin: “We all have our go-to friends for certain types of recommendations, whether it’s music, film, tech gadgets, a flatscreen, hotels. Snoox packages these all up in one place so you don’t need to post a question in Facebook and wait for a non-realtime answer. Or go to multiple sites specific to travel or music to find them. Or read reviews that may or may not be auto-generated by a bot. Real friends, real recommendations. On any topic. That is a key differentiator for us. We are also tapping into the image-based Web movement with visually rich content.”

Users get started with Snoox by connecting with their Facebook account. The site pulls in users’ Facebook likes, populating their Snoox page with relevant content and helping them to get started, quickly. Users are then encouraged to search the system for anything from a person to a restaurant or even city recommendations. Users are also encouraged to start adding recommendations right away and to organize their recommendations into “displays” – personalized collections of their favorite things. The Snoox platform gives users multiple ways to share and explore recommendations.

Snoox joins recommendation party alongside Raved, Villij, Stamped

Back in 2008 at TechCrunch I interviewed the founder of Delver, an early social search engine that later crashed and burned. (Now it’s called Shop Your Way.) Social search engines missed the mark because they didn’t draw on people’s social graph — such as it was in 2008.

Today social search engines have given way to a new breed of recommendation apps with names like Raved (mobile only), Villij, which takes a Quora/Q&A approach for soliciting recommendations from friends, LiveStar, the personalized recommendations app for iPhone, and Stamped, a mobile-only app that offers recommendations from friends, media companies and celebrities in a stream-of-consciousness list-based fashion — but Yahoo! just bought Stamped three weeks ago, so it’s unclear whether Stamped will meet the same fate as many previous Yahoo! acquisitions.

Now Snoox joins the party. I wish Eyal, Guy and their team all the best — I know I’ll be using the service.

For more information:

Snoox website
• On Twitter: @SnooxTeam
• On Facebook: SnooxappJD Lasica, founder of Socialmedia.biz, is now co-founder of the cruise discovery engine Cruiseable. See his About page, contact JD or follow him on Twitter or Google Plus.