IAC’s Ask has launched a new local search portal, Ask City. It has several innovations packed into this release.
Mapping Tools: The most striking to me is the toolbar beneath the map. The toolbar very simply and effectively lets you mark the map (with lines, polygons, text and a number of other standard drawing tools) and then “take a snapshot of current map”. It also lets you browse previously saved versions visually. These instances can be shared. On the mapped screenshot you can see a blue polygon, a blue arrow, and text that I have added to the map. The red bordered area is the Capitol Hill neighborhood.
Panes: There are 3 panes in Ask City. The search pane (left) allows you to search for events, movies, business, and maps/directions. Selecting any of these changes the search criteria that you can enter. The middle pane shows the results in text form. It very cleverly allows you to view and then switch between your search results, result details, and directions. They do have some usability work to do in this area as sometimes data gets surprisingly cleared while switching between views. The map pane displays your results on a map. As mentioned above it packs in a lot of tools for future reference and sharing.
Data: The data that have acquired and merged is perhaps the most impressive. They’ve pulled in reviews from sister-site CitySearch and independants Yelp and Judysbook. I wonder if this is a traffic deal or if they are getting fees for sharing their content. In the future I hope that they pull in reviews from Bloglines, Ask’s blog search engine. The events search pulls from IAC’s Ticketweb. Movie search provides ticket purchases through Fandango (I m assuming that is where they are getting the listings from as well).
Ask has also added neighborhood data to help contextualize their search results. Using data from Urban Mapping they draw a polygon around the area. I find neighborhood data especially helpful when traveling – I personally don’t like ending up in the Tenderloin unexpectedly.
Adding all of this to their already excellent multi-point directions, Ask has definitely made a compelling offering. Local search is still a big area that has yet to be won and we can expect to see more advances in time at Where 2.0.