More Than Food At Lunch.com

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The beta version of Lunch.com launched earlier this year to much fanfare at the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco. The brainchild of social media guru J.R. Johnson — who sold his user-driven travel review website, VirtualTourist.com, to Expedia last year — Lunch.com’s goal is to create an online community of reviewers bound by their shared interests and connected to one another in a Similarity Network.

Through this network, users can discover brands and products that may interest them based on the recommendations of their like-minded peers. The site also mixes qualities of Facebook and Twitter — status updates, photo albums, micro reviews, follower and friends lists — with its Yelp format, making it a one-stop shop for all things social networking.

The Good

  • Viral goldmine: Clearly, the potential to reach consumers via Lunch.com is immense. And given that the site is still in its infancy, that potential will only continue to grow along with subscribers.
  • User-friendly: Pages are exceptionally well organized and easy to navigate. Props to the information architect and designer.
  • Review ratings: Reviewers are ranked by their peers, based on the usefulness of their reviews, which helps produce product reviews that are actually useful, well written and less of the LOL/OMG variety.

The Bad

  • Limited topics: Collectors of rare 18th century stamps will probably not find other enthusiasts here. To cast the widest net possible, communities seem to revolve around the lowest common denominator, though interests will likely expand as the site does.
  • Experts missing: Though peer reviews are helpful, when it comes to purchasing big ticket items like electronics, nothing beats the reviews of experts. Lunch would be well served by adding an “experts corner” or feed to CNET. A comparison shopping service also wouldn’t hurt.
  • Timing: Had Lunch launched years ago, it might have been a formidable competitor to Facebook, but its arrival now makes it a little late to the virtual party. Alternatively, it may crush Facebook in the same way that Facebook crushed MySpace and Friendster. This seems an unlikely scenario to us as Lunch is less about friends and more about products, but ultimately time will tell and Lunch.com remains one to watch.

Check it out for yourself — Lunch.com — and then leave us a comment with your thoughts.

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