LoveThis Launches Social Recommendation ‘Anti-App’ By Adding Facebook, Email Tips To The Mix

Feeling overloaded by social recommendation apps? Get ready for another one hitting the market, although this one says it will come with a twist: LoveThis, the UK-based social recommendation service that launched last year with $2 million in funding, today has launched an iOS app to let friends recommend across 10 categories, from books and films to places to eat.

But unlike apps like Amen or Foursquare that rely on people using the app to suggest or tag things, this one says it will also take into account recommendations made by contacts elsewhere, such as Facebook and email, who do not have to be signed up to LoveThis to put their two cents into the mix.

And, unlike many other apps that focus first on scale before trying to work in the business model, Alex Dormandy, the CEO of the company, says LoveThis already has a plan here, too. LoveThis is free to use, but the idea will be that something recommended through LoveThis can subsequently be bought via the app. It’s not there yet but is in the works.

“We will have a buy button sitting there at exactly that moment,” he tells me. “And it’s not just people with the app who can buy, non registered friends who receive or make recommendations will also receive the purchase links.”

He says that LoveThis is trying to work some viral elements into the new service as well: while the functionality allows for discussion on your own topics between the app, Facebook and email, LoveThis will also include an invite to download the app if you want to see friends’ other recommendations.

That could come in useful especially in the early days when most people will not have the app. LoveThis doesn’t say how many people have registered with the service since it launched last year, but it picked up around 40,000 recommendations in its first eight weeks of launch: that quick growth speaks to how there is still a hole in the market waiting to be filled. And how people are still looking for the “killer app” that gives them more trusted and intelligent discovery tools beyond the more anonymous search results that you get today.

For now the service works around three points of engagement: the app, Facebook and email. But Dormandy also says that LoveThis is already working on integrating with other social sites like Foursquare and Twitter. “Absolutely there are a lot of options,” he says. “The work on integrating with them is going on now.”

LoveThis should be watched to see if this kind of cross-platform, semi-opted-in model of social networking can work, but another reason to keep an eye on it is because of the track record of the people who are behind the startup.

Dormandy is a veteran of Branson’s Virgin group, having founded both Virgin Mobile and the fitness chain Virgin Active. Another exec helped design and launch one of the UK’s biggest online grocery-and-beyond shopping/delivery outfits, Ocado. Angels include Gi Fernando (founder of Techlightenment, later sold to Experian).