Where do you usually find out about a new book to read, a new song to listen for or even a game to play? I think most of us would say we find new things through our friends and social interactions. LivingSocial, a DC-based startup created by the Ruby on Rails development shop Hungry Machine, is looking to help with similar social recommendations. Started as a Facebook application, LivingSocial offers a handful of vertical recommendation sites (books, food, music, movies, beer, and games). Leveraging the Facebook social graph LivingSocial claims to have 6.4 million beta users, who have collectively reviewed nearly 80 million items since February.
I gave a couple of the LivingSocial sites a try (not on Facebook) starting with the tedious task of searching for a beer, tune of book to review. After a few items were found and rated social recommendations are returned. Each LivingSocial site also offers a number of tabs including one solely for recommendations. LivingSocial sprinkles Amazon links though out the site which make it easy for users to buy an item which presents LivingSocial with an affiliate revenue stream.
I was intrigued with the way that LivingSocial leverages Facebook accounts in an anonymous state to populate reviews on its sites. For example, it displays user accounts from as "Facebook user." LivingSocial makes it easy to bind or link an account to a Facebook, Bebo or MySpace account and start sharing my recommendations. I think this is very important as regularly visiting the various LivingSocial sites directly may not be immediately routine. But I might find myself browsing recommendations on Facebook, especially if they show up in my news feed.
Social Recommendations are definitely interesting as we all want to find new beers, music, movies, books and grub. LivingSocial appears to be stockpiling social recommendation data so it is no surprise that it just raised $5 million from in venture capital from Grotech Ventures and Steve Case.