Pushing The Local Boundaries
"Local" has emerged as a primary Internet battleground - with every significant player in Search recently expanding their local offering, clearly attracted by the staggering size of the "Yellow Pages" local advertising market and the enduring success of Craig's List (if you haven't looked recently at the size of the list of Craig's List cities - on the right of their homepage - do it now, WOW!). Duking it out with the Internet establishment are a handful of Web 2.0 start-ups looking to build community and carve out the local niche for themselves (nice when your niche is a multi-billion dollar addressable market).
With all of this recent effort against local, is it too much to ask for a little bit of innovation??
Apparently, somehow it was decide that:
Maps + Yellow Pages + Search + Reviews + Free Classifieds = Local
Now, I will give you that Driving Directions are the best thing on the Internet (simple man, simple pleasures), but I think Maps found their way online when traffic was still really bad on 101. Beyond that, I am yet to understand what I can do now that I couldn't do before. Yes, it is easier to use the Yellow Pages online than using the book and you don't get ink on your fingers - and, yes, I do like that I dont have to wait a year for Zagat to publish a review of a new restaurant, but more or less in 1999 I could do everything I can do with today's local products.
I'm greedy. I want more. I want someone to take community to the next level - tagging and reviews are great and all, but... Somehow using technology to make things 10% rather than 10x better doesn't do a whole lot for me.
So, what do I mean?
In James Surowiecki's book The Wisdom of Crowds (you should read it), he talks about a bar that is only cool if it is not too crowded (a coordination problem). A local solution should tell me if the bar is crowded. It should also help me figure out who is there.
Open Table is great, but why doesn't a local solution combine restaurnat reservations with airline seating style table maps so that I can choose where I sit?
A local solution should take advantage of the fact that I am likely to know people locally and value their opinions differently.
A local solution which helps me find a restaurant could offer Amazon style suggestions - "You recently ate at Globe and you gave it 5 stars, other people in your local area who gave Globe 5 stars also like Chaya"
I could go on, but I will stop here. If you know of people out there pushing the local boundaries, I want to hear about them - post a comment. If you have other local wishes, post those as well...