Responding to our TechCrunch coverage last week, Jon Carder of our competitor MojoPages said the following:
Local search just isn’t gamey or sexy enough to make a local search Facebook App worth the time.
I disagree with this analysis on several levels. It’s true, so far, that many popular Facebook apps have a game-like aspect. And it’s true that their success can teach us some lessons.
But such apps are just the baby steps of social networking; the meaningful stuff lies ahead, when we’ve learned to walk. And run. And climb. And that’s definitely “worth the time.”
Indeed, I think it’ll make Facebook as a whole “worth the time.”
Social networking is already more than games. It allows our online actions to be informed and enhanced by the participation of our friends. The Web has become more like the real world.
In the case of local search, it means we can finally get advice from our friends — something we’ve always done offline, but that’s new on the Web.
Say you’re looking for a good Italian restaurant. Offline, you can consult the Yellow Pages. Online, you can do the same. You’ll find a restaurant, but not necessarily a good one.
Offline, you can see what’s recommended by the local newspaper or magazine. Online, you can do the same. They review a very limited number of places, however. (And beyond restaurants, virtually nothing.)
Offline, you can consult Zagat. Online, you can do the same. Or check Yelp. You’ll get the wisdom of a certain crowd.
Offline, you can seek recommendations from your friends. According to every poll, these are the recommendations you’ll actually trust — the advice you’ll actually take.
Yet until recently, it’s been pretty hard to do the same thing online. Facebook has made it easier. And increasingly, Facebook is where your friends are.
To me, that means Facebook is a great fit for local search.
Of course, we’re still figuring out how local search should work in a social environment. Jon observes:
The existing apps [on Facebook] are all fairly good, well designed and user friendly yet none of them is gaining any sustained traction.
I don’t agree with the “fairly good, well designed and user friendly” part, but it’s absolutely true that no one has gotten traction.
Why? I decided to survey the current apps to see if I can draw any conclusions.
(Continued in Part 2)