As Recipe Sharing On Pinterest Explodes, Foodily Revamps To Focus On Social

Foodily, a startup that began as a recipe search site before arriving on iPhone in late 2011, is today rolling out a major revamp of its user interface that puts even more emphasis on social interactions. The company is calling the combination of new features the “Food With Friends” experience, and it’s something that’s clearly been inspired in other trends in the social networking space, including those on Pinterest, Twitter and Quora.

The key pieces to update include a new search feature, fast Twitter-style posting, a Quora-like “Ask A Question” functionality, and a “friends bar” at the top of the screen. It’s hard to not also see the desire from Foodily to move the conversations taking place around the recipe imagery posted on Pinterest these days, back to its own social network where such a conversation may make more sense and have more structure.

According to Foodily CEO Andrea Cutright, the service today has “under half a million” users. Compare that with Pinterest – although Pinterest doesn’t talk user numbers, comScore estimated it was seeing around 30 million unique visitors as of July, while Compete was seeing just under 25 million uniques as of October. In addition, when Pinterest announced its support for business accounts on Wednesday, the company also pointed to a case study by AllRecipes, which stated that the company saw over 50,000 recipes pinned in three months, following the addition of a “Pin It” button. The button led to 139 million impressions, and a 900% increase in clicks.

The question for Foodily is whether it can now grow its own network further, when people seem to be content to share, comment and repost their recipe findings elsewhere. Cutright doesn’t call out Pinterest directly as a reason for Foodily’s shift, saying instead: “it was inspired by listening to what people were doing online anyway – they’re trying to use social networks to talk to people about food.” But that’s not a good idea, she believes.

“It’s really difficult because it’s not a dedicated place where you feel comfortable posting three times in one period,” she says of other social networks. (Insert your own joke about how no one on Twitter cares what you ate for lunch here). “Or it’s not that easy when you just comment on a particular recipe, when what you really want to do is have a whole conversation about being gluten-free,” Cutright adds as an example. With Foodily’s update, these sorts of things are, in fact, now easier to do.

The app features a friends bar at the top, where you can immediately tap to see a friend’s activity and message them directly, or find daily picks from Foodily itself. A search option lets you search your favorite recipes, then in separate tabs see those from your friends or from a growing index of hundreds of recipe websites. And, most importantly, the red “+” plus button lets you kick off social conversations about recipes and food directly within the app.

Here, you can write text, share a photo, share a recipe, or even “ask a question,” which is the nod to Quora. Additionally, you can tag other Foodily friends, or even those from your Contacts list on your phone or Facebook. This is helpful for including non-Foodily members into the conversation – for those who aren’t on the service, a link will direct them to either the desktop or mobile website when clicked. Already seeing “tens of millions” of impressions from Facebook Open Graph sharing, Foodily is likely hoping this enhanced communication mechanism can help it grow its user base even further.

The updated iPhone app is available now in iTunes. An Android version is in the works, but there’s no ETA on that yet.