In September, Wikets, Inc., announced it had raised $1.5 million from venture firms Andreessen Horowitz and Battery Ventures, as well as from six angel investors, to build a new iPhone application that allows users to rate products and share those recommendations with friends. Today, the app has gone live in iTunes.
The resulting product is deceptively simple. You make a recommendation, optionally share it with friends via Facebook or Twitter, and then get rewarded in the form of points that can be later turned in for gift cards at online merchants.
At launch, Wikets lets you recommend products from its featured partners and from 60 major retailers, including iTunes (music and apps), Etsy, eBay, Amazon, Best Buy, The Home Depot, Wine.com, and others, as well as any place you can pull up on Yelp or Foursquare. You can also scan a product’s barcode, if you choose.
Your recommendation, or “Rec” in Wikets’ lingo, is then shared within the app with your followers – that’s right, there’s a social networking component to Wikets, too. You can follow other users to see the products and places they like and can even “Re-Rec” those to your own friends, comment on them, or buy the product from within the app itself.
In order to encourage usage, Wikets doles out points for your recommendations, other in-app activity, and, most importantly, your purchases. (100 points = $1.00 USD). These points can later be redeemed for gift cards from select merchants.
But there’s a bit more to Wikets than a simple recommendations/reward system. In the app’s main stream, which includes all the recommendations on the service, there’s a search button to find recommendations from others or to find users by name, plus filters for popular recommendations, nearby recommendations and recommended people. As you browse through this stream, discovering new content, you can tap a button to add items to your wishlist or strike up a conversation around the item in question through a comments feature.
These social features of the app make Wikets feel more a social network built around products and places, as opposed to yet another user reviews type service.
At its core, however, Wikets isn’t all that different from Oink, the first app from Kevin Rose’s startup lab Milk. Like Wikets, Oink lets you rate items (well, actually anything – not just products and places), filter by location, popularity and more. Except in Oink’s case, you build up “cred” not points, and that cred doesn’t amount to much – certainly not real-world rewards. But Oink at least offers the ability to drill down to make granular recommendations – a particular beer at a bar, a dish at a restaurant, and so on.
Arguably, all these recommendations, both on Oink or Wikets, could just as easily be added to any social, user reviews or check-in app, like Yelp, Facebook or Foursquare. There’s also the question of whether rewards are enough to keep users engaged on Wikets for an extended period of time, once the “shininess” wears off. There are always those who will do anything for a reward, whether that’s using a particular search engine or taking an online survey, but true engagement comes from building an addictive and enjoyable service or one that fills a real need (or even better, one that does both).
For Wikets to be successful, it has to change users’ current behavior surrounding social recommendations – that is, it requires you to first recommend on Wikets and then share with friends on Facebook or Twitter. That’s the opposite of how we operate today. When you have a quick thought about the delicious dish you’re enjoying at a new restaurant, a great deal you just found, or a new app you love, we typically first take to social networks to make that recommendation. Perhaps Wikets would have been better if it built on top of that behavior – that is, it pulled in your recommendations from your social networks and then allowed you to rate them in the app.
You can try Wikets for yourself here in iTunes.