A new online community site called Lunch.com has just launched into private beta here at the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco. The site, essentially a recommendation network, aims to bring the sort of casual conversations you would have with friends over lunch to the online arena. Using a proprietary “Similarity Network Engine,” Lunch calculates what you have in common with other site members so you can share recommendations with those who have your same interests and perspectives.

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In a way, Lunch is somewhat like a “Yelp 2.0.” But unlike Yelp and other sites like it, Lunch’s network aims to make user-generated reviews more of a personalized experience. By discovering your passions and interests, Lunch lets you connect with people who are more like you – and therefore, people who will be recommending and reviewing products and services in a way that you can trust (at least in theory). This idea has merit because it provides a personalized, filtered view of these online reviews.

Why We Need This

Sites like Yelp, Amazon, the iTunes store, and others have been coming under fire for not having trustworthy reviews. Thanks to anonymous user IDs on some sites, reviewers can be anyone with any agenda. Often they are. On Lunch, however, those drive-by reviews contributed by someone associated with the company or product being reviewed (or with an axe to grind) will not be prominently featured. The reason? Lunch.com’s Similarity Network.