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Main > Archives > 2006 > December > AskCity: Integrating Local Search (and IAC)

Monday, December 04, 2006

AskCity: Integrating Local Search (and IAC)

Gary Price kindly guided me through the new AskCity product at 10:15 pm last night. To users, AskCity offers more intuitive mapping power (saving routes, emailing routes, inviting people to specific places at specific times) than I've ever seen pulled together in one place. To IAC AskCity pulls together more of their properties in one place than any other product.

My key takeaways:
    most IAC products (6) integrated in one place ever (a good thing since it has no ads yet)
    errand planning and event organization functionality
    directions for walking AND for driving (nifty!)
    Ask found that users don't respond to "local" as well as to "city."
    red lines around zip codes on map display
    send directions and itineraries to others
$$$
Ask hasn't cracked any new local nuts when it comes to monetization yet - there's no AskCity specific advertising product. It does pull together a multitude - 6 - of IAC products including CitySearch, TicketMaster, ServiceMagic and others.

This integration is Diller's dream realized and it's got to be the reason that there's no push to quickly monetize. Well, that and it's probably a biaaatch and very expensive to market to local businesses about yet another web product.

I think of Ask as a very intelligent top-down search improvement company. Gary mentioned that he joined the company in part because its approach was very "librarian." Librarians and libraries typically impose a top-down informational hierarchy that makes little or no allowance for explicit user input such as tags (this is not a value statement - I'm just saying).

But Ask continues to relentlessly enhance and tighten the user experience in ways that larger search engines have lost sight of in their rush for the social web and mountains of press.

Let's look at some of those ways now:

Differentiation
directions for walking, directions for driving
sometimes you need walking directions - you can often ignore stuff like one way streets and take cut throughs where cars can't drive. I wonder if the Ask engineers actually identified walking short cuts through parks and such or just ignored one-way streets...

"pin it"
The pin it function is a flexible little widge that enables users to plot out an afternoon's errands or an evening's carousing with equal ease and intuitiveness.

The pin it function realizes what I saw the beginnings of in the GenineKnows local product: an errand efficiency engine.

With AskCity I can ensure that my afternoon spent driving to JiffyLube, BestBuy and the thrift store happens in the shortest amount of time possible.

zip code outlined in red
This makes sense. It's neat. Type in a zip code and it gets outlined with a red ribbon.

MyStuff
Ask has historically called its users lazy. Many, many many of them undoubtedly are, though its troubled me that Ask has seemingly done little to enable contributions from those who aren't.

Anyways, I hadn't heard about Ask's MyStuff product until last night when Gary indicated that there could be some relationship building between MyStuff and AskCity.

I'd really like to see bloglines get pulled in here somehow too...

What's Missing
I still would like to see the opportunity to add my own reviews, commentary, local events or even walking short cuts to any part of AskCity.

Also, there's no local news, which could begin to make AskCity more of a local portal for folks. Show me the weather and I just might wake up with you ;)

Overall
Overall I love it. It's a strong, strong product that makes Ask more useful to more people (including Barry Diller). This is the most significant innovation I've seen out of Ask in some time and I look forward to where they will be pushing things.

By Jason Dowdell at 07:54 AM | Comments (0)

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