Lunch.com, a year-old personal recommendation network that functions somewhat like Yelp, is implementing Facebook's newly launched Open Graph API (application programming interface) in an interesting way: It's doing Facebook "like" imports. In the next 24 hours, this feature will appear on the Lunch website for all users to try.
Lunch's Recommendation Network
Despite its name, Lunch.com isn't just a website for dining recommendations. Instead, the name derives from the idea that the kind of conversations you would have with a friend over lunch can be corralled into a Web application for the purpose of personal recommendations.
Lunch has always eschewed the typical "re-friend all your online friends" method of connecting you with others in favor of connecting you with those who are most similar to you. It does this by way of its key feature: the Lunch "Similarity Network."
Until now, the service had to sort of trick you into sharing your recommendations and interests with the community by way of online games. As with Amazon's "improve your recommendations" feature, the games on Lunch - today there are over 300 - let you rate items like movies, books, food, sports, music, cars, fashion, politics, gadgets... anything, really. The idea is that rating items in a game-style interface makes the process of sharing your interests fun.
However, these games aren't there just so you can have fun - without knowing your interests, Lunch.com simply cannot function. It wouldn't know you or what you like and therefore couldn't make recommendations or connect you with others.
Forget Games, Import Likes for Instant Personalization
But, let's face it, however "fun" the games are, playing them still takes effort. Wouldn't it be great if the site already knew what you liked? Well, now it will.
With the upcoming Facebook "like import" feature, you'll be able to instantly personalize Lunch and then be able to enjoy its recommendations without spending any time training its algorithms to know you better.
This, of course, is dependent on whether or not you've been active on Facebook, but with 500 million users worldwide using the social network, it's a good bet that most of us are.
There has been a large focus in the tech community on the more negative aspects of Facebook's changes due to the social network's user privacy violations and questionable level of openness, but the Open Graph API the company implemented for developers (detailed here) is one of its better new features. With this API, after a user grants permission, Web developers can access Facebook profile information - like profile details, friend lists and, as Lunch shows, Facebook likes - and import it into their own Web service or application. The benefits and drawbacks to this trade-off - privacy for personalization - are left for users to consider and decide upon. Lunch.com is betting that most users will opt-in... and we bet that most will, too.