We can see the promise of the local search boom finally coming to
fruition. We see it all around us when we research travel, look at city
guides, yellow pages and find local events and news from a whole range
of sites. Local grassroots initiatives like New England Grown,
mainstream companies like Starwood Hotels, platform companies like
Platial, giants like Google, MS and Yahoo, mobile carriers, navigation
companies and new location-based services companies are all playing a
role in the overall movement. Soon
you'll be able to find bars, restaurants, events, products, history and
local flavor all around you illuminating the world no matter where you
are within it. Heck, even telling you where in the world you should go.
Primary interface for all city guide, yellow pages, travel and local news, shopping done through mapping sites, the map door of all search engines and mobile map apps.
Here are some reasons we think the Geoweb will rock Local Search and take a 48% share of local search dollars and users:
Maps are a familiar and effective metaphor proven by the rapid adoption of map interfaces for viewing all kinds of data. Google has noted there are over 50,000 GMaps developers and 250MM downloads of Google Earth.
When asked last week "What are some of the technology innovations that you're excited about when it comes to mobile or local search marketing?" Chris Sherman replied "Maps combined with images rock my universe. I can easily see a day when you do a local search and your results include thumbnail images of brick & mortar storefronts....I anticipate well also see the emergence of something like bluetooth enabled eyeglasses that will project these types of immersive experiences giving us a live, 3-D experience literally in front of our eyes, allowing you to physically interact with these virtual worlds."
Geographic search is hard. Really really hard. (We've been working on this for MONTHS and we're almost ready to debut). There are a couple of reasons text search is inadequate for geography' a). Proximity typically kills performance b). Still uses the web page metaphor as opposed to the more atomic options which geobits (kml, georss, posts) allow
3. User generated content is compelling
While all local search initiatives are now integrating user generated content and other kinds of editorialized information, the amount of user generated content being mapped is tremendous. Based on available data, we believe there have been over 600MM user-contributed points added to maps in just a few years - it has also become trivial to aggregate TONS of data through georss, kml and other geobits which offers the end user more information choices.
4. "Whatever I want Nearby"
The nature of geodata is aggregation. The nature of people's information desire is to find stuff nearby in one place whether it's a store, a service, a hotel, a piece of graffiti. Superpages' parent company just announced that it would be buying the directory assets of Infospace -- the only one explicitly named is Switchboard.com -- for $225 million (mixture of cash and debt). Infospace.com itself is a directory site and so is the recently launched FindIt, which is also the brand of one of Infospace's mobile assets. The acquisition will likely make Superpages (and related owned and operated sites) the traffic leader among Internet yellow pages/directory sites. While it is interesting, the total amount of data in the directory pales in comparison with user-generated data and the open-ness of the geoweb. The trend in aggregation will include directory, non-commercial and even ethereal data.
5. Advertising Revenue
The Geoweb has built in targeting technology- the same platform that allow companies to serve any data, is the SAME technology that allows for superior targeting. Non map-based approaches need to develop parallel technology.
Part of what's driving companies to build the technology we want is the $11b by 2011 in online local ad spending which is predicted to fuel this movement. Local advertisers are looking for better targeting and more effective channels for their messages. We've just struck a series of ad partnerships and were surprised at how little actual local targeting exists. Our standard technology improves local targeting for all kinds of ad units and companies and only 1 out of 5 partners could take full advantage of this! Being a humble start-up we were shocked at how far behind the well-funded ad technologies are behind their user facing local application counterparts. Of course there are new companies to bridge that gap but it remains a barrier to successful monetization of local search. This may be the most important barrier for the Geoweb to overcome. Geospatial web advocates have existed for decades but recently the Geoweb has been getting mainstream press attention which is good news for us mapping applications.
"Google Maps is Changing the Way We See the World" Wired, July 2007
“The world on your desktop” From The Economist print edition