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Photo: Likewise

Bill Gates is not giving up on saving the world, but he is helping launch a new social recommendation engine. Likewise, as the iOS and Android app is known, is designed to be a place to get trusted recommendations on everything from restaurants to books, movies and TV shows.

Why it matters: It won't cure polio or fix the U.S. education system, but Likewise could fill a niche helping people keep track of the books and TV shows their friends recommend as well as to discover new places.

The free app, which launches today, began as the brainchild of Larry Cohen, a longtime Gates aide who serves as CEO of Gates Ventures. The Microsoft co-founder is funding the Bellevue, Wash.-based company, which has been working for nearly a year and has about 20 employees.

“It’s not the next Office, but there’s a real need here,” Cohen told Axios. Cohen is chairman of Likewise, with his onetime Microsoft colleague Ian Morris serving as CEO.

Not ratings: While there are plenty of sites that offer crowdsourced reviews with numeric ratings, Cohen and Morris say most people are looking for positive recommendations. "You don’t call your friend and say 'I’m going to Boston — what are some places I should avoid?' " Morris said.

The details:

  • As on Twitter, people's postings are public by default, though there is an option to keep things private.
  • The app will be available in the U.S. and Canadian app stores, with some data on 115 cities. The company, though, is focusing its marketing push on making the service robust in Seattle, hoping efforts there can serve as a blueprint for expansion

The key hurdle: Even with Gates' backing, Likewise faces an uphill battle to get critical mass."That is the biggest challenge any app faces, certainly one with a social component," Morris said.The app hopes to generate some initial interest with recommendations from Gates, as well as other celebrities including Tom Friedman, Bono and Howard Schultz.

Over time, though, the main goal is to be a place to get suggestions from your own trusted circle of friends.

There are also some external data sources so that people don't have to start with a blank slate, including restaurant recommendations from Vox Media's Eater.

Likewise also hopes to expand to new categories over time, including perhaps podcasts, electronics and recipes. While there is no current effort to monetize, Cohen says there are lots of options down the road given that the very nature of the app means its users are close to making purchasing decisions.

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U.S. releases report finding Saudi prince approved Khashoggi operation

Photo: Bandar Algaloud / Saudi Kingdom Council / Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) has released an unclassified report assessing that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) approved the operation to "capture or kill" Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

Driving the news: The White House also announced sanctions on entities implicated in the murder, though not on MBS directly. Officials also announced a new "Khashoggi ban" under which individuals accused of harassing journalists or dissidents outside their borders can be barred from entering the U.S.

About 20% of U.S. adults have received first vaccine dose, White House says

Joe Biden speaks during an event commemorating the 50 million COVID-19 vaccine shots. Photo: Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images

Nearly 1 in 5 adults and nearly half of Americans 65 and older have received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine, White House senior adviser Andy Slavitt said on Friday.

The big picture: The Biden administration has previously said it has secured enough doses to vaccinate most of the American population by the end of July.

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

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  3. Economy: What's really going on with the labor market.
  4. Local: All adult Minnesotans will likely be eligible for COVID-19 vaccine by summer — Another wealthy Florida community receives special access to COVID-19 vaccine.
  5. Sports: Poll weighs impact of athlete vaccination.