Tyler Bell wrote a very interesting post today, over at O’Reilly Radar: “Why check-ins and like buttons will change the local landscape“. In it, he talks about how a lack of common locality conventions is perhaps the main stumbling block of advancing local search technology, and he points to Gary Gale’s Geo Tower of Babel concept wherein different systems refer to places and placenames in different ways, meaning different things. Essentially, every different local info system out there refers to common places with variations on names and differing geocoordinates, and this lack of accurate specificity across systems causes many problems.
Tyler states that “developers are left holding the buck” in this issue, and he cites three top reasons for it. His top three reasons are the most interesting part of the piece, because I think he really describes many of the basic challenges of the local search industry beautifully. His first reason, “Focus on listings data as end rather than means” is described like this:
“Local search as we know it today is the parthenogenous child of the Yellow Pages industry. Many local search sites, and the data vendors they rely on, remain grounded in YP-era thinking, where the value was found in owning the listing data, making them discoverable in alphabetical order, and advertising against these listings. Local search for ages focused on being an electronic version of the Yellow Pages. Few organizations have looked above the horizon and considered carefully what value could be realized if listings were viewed as a means to connect users to businesses, rather than only advertise against their search.”
His other two reasons, “Attempts at distinction with common data” and “Over-fascination with pins on maps” are good, too.
However, I think his ideas on resolving the issues are unrealistic. (more…)