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Photo: Likewise

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is still set on saving the world, but he's also got some side gigs, like helping launch a new social recommendation engine, called Likewise. The iOS and Android app is designed to be a place to get trusted recommendations on everything from restaurants to books to TV shows.

How it all started: The free app, which launches today, began as the brainchild of Larry Cohen, a longtime Gates aide who serves as CEO of Gates Ventures.

  • Gates is funding the Bellevue, Wash.-based company, which has been working for nearly a year and has about 20 employees.
  • Cohen is chairman of Likewise with his onetime Microsoft colleague Ian Morris serving as CEO.
“It’s not the next Office, but there’s a real need here."
— Cohen tells Axios

The app will not include 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

The details:

  • As on Twitter, people's postings are public by default, though there's 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.
  • There are some external data sources so that people don't have to start with a blank slate, including restaurant recommendations from Vox Media's Eater.

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

What's next: 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 where you can get suggestions from your own trusted circle of friends.
  • Likewise also hopes to expand to new categories, including perhaps podcasts, electronics and recipes.
  • While there's 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

CCP releases two jailed Canadians after Huawei CFO deal with DOJ

Photo: Sheldon Cooper/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Two Canadians imprisoned by the Chinese government for over 1,000 days have been released and are expected to arrive in Canada on Saturday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday.

Why it matters: Their release comes hours after Huawei Technologies CFO Meng Wanzhou reached a deal with the U.S. Department of Justice that resolves the criminal charges against her and could pave the way for her to return to China.

Updated 20 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Arizona GOP's private recount of 2020 election confirms Biden's win

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In an odd coda to the 2020 election, private contractors conducting a GOP-commissioned recount in Arizona confirmed President Biden’s win in Maricopa County.

Why it matters: The unofficial, party-driven recount has been heavily covered on cable news as part of former President Trump's continued effort to sow doubt about the election result.

Del Rio bridge camp empty following Haitian migrant surge

A boy bathes himself in a jug of water inside a migrant camp at the U.S.-Mexico border on Sept. 21 in Del Rio, Texas. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

The last migrants camping under the Del Rio International Bridge, which connects Texas and Mexico, departed on Friday, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced during a White House press briefing.

Driving the news: Thousands of migrants, mostly from Haiti, had arrived to the makeshift camp after crossing the southern border seeking asylum. Roughly 1,800 migrants will now head to U.S. Customs and Border Protection processing centers.