Munjal Shah is a genius. Well to be more specific “Lisa and Laura” at his PR firm, are geniusi, geniuses. When was the last time you saw someone get front page promo in the WSJ and a profile on press release hit the wires (for an alpha application no less)? If you needed a sign that Bubble 2.0 was in full effect this might be a good one.
Now dont get me wrong, I really like… Like.com. Using the service you can search for products based on how they “look”, much like Riya, except the products arent other people they are things like handbags, shoes, jewelry and watches. Its a great idea and an impressive display of what is possible with a team of egg-heads and ace developers. But just as with Riya, its questionable if the application is compelling enough to attract an audience. Like.com has all the web2.0 goodness that you would expect from an Internet veteran like Munjal Shah. I was particularly impressed with the accuracy of the Shape and Color sliders at the top of the page, which worked really well narrowing down my choice of stilettos to a manageable number. However, this is an alpha site and you will get strange results from time to time, especially when using the celebrity search (click on Diddy’s earring to see).
Like.com and Riya are both awesome tools, but they arent destinations. When you first get a sense of what they can do, you’re floored but that feeling passes quickly and your left needing something to do with them. Munjal and his team should license Like.com to sites like theknot, Red Envelope and Etsy or anywhere else that people shop using the heuristic “I want something that looks like…”. Like.com would even do well as an open API and stand a chance of becoming the defacto standard in e-commerce applications that use visual search. Sites like MTV, Go Fug Yourself and YBF could use the LAPI (Like API) to build new applications around visual search and help drive commerce among fans who aspire to emulate the celebrities they see.
In this article by Dan Farber, Munjal is said to believe that “the testers didn’t find the facial search very useful” and I’m not convinced that Like.com will be much different. The need for visual search occurs in the context of an experience, not as an independent desire or need. Like.com’s best chances of getting and keeping an audience (high utilization) is where the impulse to use visual search occurs. Namely an experiential or entertainment context.
The bigger opportunity to create value for users and producers alike is for Riya to make tools like, Like.com available as widely as possible and allow the ways in which the tool is useful to be dictated by users and developers.