Social networking and local search
By Charlene Li
There's been a lot of activity lately in this space -- I wrote about Evite's entry into social networking yesterday and there have been recent launches by Lycos Circles, Yelp!, Insider Pages, and Judy's Book.
Here's the logic. If I'm looking for something, say, a good tailor, I'm likely to ask my friends for a recommendation. All of these sites can potentially collect all of those reviews, and then rank the businesses based on the number of positive reviews they received.
Two big problems: 1) Getting your friends into the network and 2) Getting them to make reviews. Neither will happen quickly or easily.
Which is why I think services like Evite and to some extent, Lycos Circles will have the leg up over the more specific local referral social networking sites like Yelp!, Insider Pages, and Judy's Book. Evite already has a natural way (via invitation lists) to map social networks, while Lycos Circles draws in your tight social network via regular interactions.
The big, lurking shadow you see running around behind all of this is Yahoo! Local, and to some extent, Citysearch. Yahoo! in particular could easily map their general reviews in their database to your social network -- and I'm talking about the "network" that resides in your Yahoo! Calendar contact database. It will be hard for small start-ups to get much traction when size of network is the key to success.