Ask Gives Local Search a Try

Of all the searches Nielsen//NetRatings has tracked recently, 49.6 percent were performed on Google, 23.9 percent were on Yahoo, 8.8 percent were on Microsoft, 6.2 percent were on AOL and 2.8 percent were on Each but offers searchers a local option.

Until today, that is. Because today, IAC/InterActiveCorp launched a new local search product for its brand. It’s called AskCity, and according to Ask director of product management Ryan Massie, it’s about time.

Massie told that market research led his team to emphasize three aspects of local search in AskCity. First, the search has to return relevant results. Second, because a local business can often have a minimal presence on the Web, listings need to possess detailed information.

And third, Massie said, market research revealed that consumers want to be able to take action directly from the search results page. Thus, many AskCity listings feature next-step actions, such as making reservations or buying tickets.

To provide that information and capabilities, Massie said, Ask leveraged relationships with over two-dozen content partners, including some other IAC companies such as CitySearch.

AskCity features four types of local search from one site: business and services, events, movies, and maps and directions. It’s also Ajax-based which Massie said is supposed to make it faster.

Faster or no, because of the Ajax, users can conduct multiple searches, build and revise itineraries, make reservations and share results with other users all from one page. Users can also annotate maps with notes and shapes drawn directly onto the screen.

There isn’t any advertising on AskCity yet, and though Massie didn’t rule it out for the future, he said monetization worries will certainly come later. For now, Massie said that Ask’s hope for AskCity is that it will help maintain or accelerate the search engine’s growing market share.

He said he hopes searchers will begin to feel they can come to for almost any kind of Web search.

Of course, product managers at Google, Yahoo and Microsoft certainly feel the same. It’s led to a hot competition among the group as they each get after what’s often called the long tail of local commerce.

Google Earth is a favorite toy on the Internet, but Google CEO Eric Schmidt has also called it and its Google Maps sibling advertising platforms central to the company’s future.

Frazier Miller, director of product management for Yahoo Local, claims his company’s local product is the most powerful and popular on the Web. Microsoft launched its own local search product earlier this fall.

Google, Yahoo and Microsoft are the top three search engines and local search is a priority for each. In the end, that’s reason enough for No. 5 to throw its hat in the ring.

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