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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.

Go deeper

Oklahoma sues Biden administration over Pentagon vaccine mandate

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin testifies before a House Armed Services Committee hearing on Sept. 29 in Washington, D.C. Photo: Olivier Douliery/Pool via Getty Images

The state of Oklahoma filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration on Thursday in an attempt to block the enforcement of its vaccine mandate for federal employees.

Why it matters: The move comes one day after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin denied Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt's (R) request to exempt the state's National Guard from the mandate.

Congress passes stopgap funding bill to avert shutdown

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Senate voted 69-28 to pass legislation Thursday night to fund the government until February 18.

Why it matters: The move staves off a government shutdown but lawmakers still have a busy month ahead: Congress needs to work out a deal to raise the debt ceiling in a few weeks and Democrats are trying to pass their behemoth social spending bill.

DiDi to delist from NYSE under Chinese govt pressure

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Chinese ride-hail giant DiDi said it will delist from the New York Stock Exchange, following a Chinese government crackdown on foreign listings.

Why it matters: This reflects how geopolitical tensions are bleeding into the capital markets.