The great thing about social networks, now that people understand the basics, is that you can apply them to any subject. If you can find a strong niche that provides value to users and can start income streams for you as a company, then you have a winner. Which is where Foodspotting comes in, as I load it onto my Windows Phone.
Version Reviewed: 220.127.116.11
The principal drive behind the Foodspotting social network is your meals. Not at home, but when you are out and around town, at your favourite cafe, or experiencing the local cuisine while travelling. Given the mobile nature of the niche, Foodspotting has staked its claim to be a useful social network through its mobile clients, on iOS and Android. With Windows Phone it now opens itself to a new strand of users.
Note that it's not specifically restaurants you'll be spotting (although that is the main "unit" of information in the network), but the food that you can order, the individual dishes, and what you think of those that you'll be networking. It does mean that as your food arrives to your table, you'll need to bring out the phone and take a picture, but depending on the group you are in you can wave this off as "a crazy internet thing" or everyone does it at the same time for their account.
Getting some food into the database is a simple matter - hit the Food Spotted icon and you can either take the picture from within the application, or use one from your library taken previously - in regular company a quick snap might be all you have time for, so it's nice to know you can come back and upload the details later. Select the location (or add in a new one), and choose what type of food you've spotted (again you can add in a new food type if needed)... and into the network it goes!
Foodspotting has been running since January 2010, so the database, while still having a number of holes, is filling up nicely. It's actually fun to come across new places and be able to share a really good meal with my friends - and if they're not in Foodspotting, then I can simply cross post the discoveries to Facebook and Twitter.
With this database of food, restaurants and reviews, Foodspotting becomes even more useful in a "what will I eat tonight?" way. Some of the entries appear to be populated by a database, as they have the eateries but no food spotted inside (as I found out when looking for food in Armenia), but once you get into heavily trafficked areas and major cities you start seeing dish recommendations pop up, both on a "your friends liked this" basis, and "people on the network found these places close to you to be good" way.
It's rather like a local search, with panorama views for nearest, latest, best and wanted. The first three are self explanatory, while the wanted tab lets you ask your social network on Foodspotting for hints on finding food in the area. By bookmarking your favourite foods, you'll get a nudge when you are close to somewhere that serves a traditional Dolma, for example (it's rice and mincemeat wrapped in grape leaves).
Foodspotting is a niche social network, and as a direct result of that, Foodspotting on Windows Phone is very much a niche application. Users of the service are going to run to the mobile client, and it might make the difference in deciding to switch from another platform to Windows Phone. Others coming afresh will be glad to know that you can start, set up and manage your account using just this client.
How useful Foodspotting will be comes down to two things - are you a foodie, and are your friends using the service? Answer that and you'll answer the question over the Foodspotting app. It's coded well, talks nicely to other elements of Windows Phone, and does what it needs to do cleanly and simply.
Reviewed by Ewan Spence at