RealTime IT News

Mobile Search For Fun Nearby

InfoSpace released Mobile Local Search, a group of services aimed at helping people on the go find businesses and entertainment nearby.

The package, released on Monday, includes Local Quick Clicks, a way to find local business listings and locations, along with maps and driving directions. It includes a single search location for yellow, white pages and movie listings, maps and directions. Mobile users can not only search the white pages to find phone numbers but also find out who a number belongs to.

What's Nearby lets cell phone users find local businesses even if they don't know exactly where they are. Click to Connect lets them make phone calls with one click instead of dialing the entire number.

The application was designed to eliminate the need to jump between multiple applications to piece together listings, locations and directions, according to Joe Herzog, InfoSpace director of emerging products.

"When you're out and about with your phone, you typically will want to find things by location and also by time. We mix content from both yellow pages, white pages and other content like movie times or events guides, so that you can use all that in one application," he said.

In the near future, InfoSpace plans to add local entertainment listings to the content mix.

While MSN, Google and Yahoo all offer local search for mobile devices, Herzog said that InfoSpace's product is better because it was specifically designed to be delivered by network operators over mobile devices.

"There's a huge difference between building this type of scenario for a full screen and for mobile," he said. "The relevancy on mobile has to be a lot tighter. If you get two or three bad results on the Web, you just scroll down. On a phone, people cannot tolerate that and tend to go away and call directory assistance. We feel our depth in mobile application development and our user experience team is hard stuff to replicate."

The local search product will be distributed by wireless network operators to their subscribers, a model that InfoSpace has well established. The company says that, through various partnerships with operators, it reaches 90 percent of U.S. mobile customers.

The new InfoSpace services support all data-enabled mobile phones. They can use location feeds from modern phones with automated GPS or location systems; otherwise, users can enter a zip code, address or intersection to get local search results.

"To make this shine, you need the location feed from the carrier. That's been one huge Achilles heel [of location-based services]," Herzog said. "With this, you get automatic GPS or location services, so usability goes way up."

InfoSpace Mobile Local Search is available to carriers now, and Herzog said the company would announce carrier partnerships in the next month-and-a-half. It will be offered on a subscription basis, but by 2006, Herzog said, it would be supported by pay-per-click and pay-per-call advertising, to be provided by a still-to-be-determined partner.