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tripadvisor dines out on facebook

Travel recommendations company TripAdvisor is moving to restaurant review row and taking a seat next to Yelp and Foursquare with the release of Local Picks, a Facebook application for discovering dining recommendations from friends and locals.

Local Picks, launched Wednesday on Facebook, pulls from TripAdvisor’s vast collection of restaurant reviews, along with Foursquare tips, to provide users with suggestions on where to eat when at home or while traveling abroad.

“We heard from our users that restaurant opinions from locals and friends are extremely valuable,” TripAdvisor CEO Steve Kaufer told VentureBeat. “Local Picks makes these readily available on Facebook, which creates an insightful and fun (even addicting) user experience. TripAdvisor is constantly looking for innovative ways to help people harness the power of their social network for a more memorable travel experience.”

The app covers 850,000 restaurants, each with its own detailed restaurant profile embedded inside Facebook, and aims to surface eateries that locals love. Application users can turn to Local Picks and specify their taste preferences to receive top suggestions for a city. They can also rate restaurants on a one- to five-star scale, leave quick tips, write longer reviews, save places to lists, and “fave” or “want” locales.

The TripAdvisor Facebook application closely echoes the purpose of restaurant reviews site Yelp and even overlaps with Foursquare’s Explore functionality, but does so in a way that’s contained within Facebook and tightly integrated with Timeline. As a result, Local Picks could easily experience a network effect of activity from the social network’s 901 million active users and eventually offer up highly tailored recommendations from friends.

Where Local Picks seems to falter right now is in offering the perfect picks for different types of users, especially those with varying dietary restrictions or specific food and price point preferences. Top picks and recommended places hinge around locals’ and friends’ ratings, and do consider cuisine preferences, but come across as generic.

TripAdvisor, its own publicly traded company as of December 2011 (it was spun out of Expedia), made $48.1 million in net income from $183.7 million in revenue during the first quarter of 2011.

The company nets more than 50 million unique visitors each month and makes a majority of its revenue (79 percent) from click-based advertising.

Photo credit: Grant MacDonald/Flickr

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