Mobile Local Search, the most popular Internet application

 

Mobile Local Search, the most popular Internet application. It certainly is not true today but it won’t be long before it is. In other words, this forecast is that more Internet visitors will use Mobile Local Search than will use any other Internet application. It’s only a question of time and probably not too long a time.

Some may find this forecast suspect, but there are strong reasons for stating this so confidently. Indeed part of the argument can be confirmed by a little personal reflection. Before getting into the reasoning, it is perhaps worth mentioning how this provocative scenario came to mind. It was triggered by a thoughtful post, Local Search at Rest, and Local in Motion, by William Slawski, who is one of the most erudite commentators of this scene. He and Mike Blumenthal have had some communications on whether Google Maps (Local) data will become more accurate and useful over time. They are both pretty sure that it will. However it is not the product development that drives the forecast I discussed earlier but rather the market demand. Let’s spell out the reasons.

A) The Mobile Web is/will be very much bigger than the regular Desktop PC Web. This is being seen most clearly in Asia with Europe coming along and the U.S. at the back of the pack.
B) Local Search has always been an important demand even before the Internet existed. That’s why most homes and offices had directories of all kinds: white pages, Yellow Pages, local directories, trade directories and the list went on. Remember when you could speak to a human being at 411 and together try to figure out where that Italian restaurant was with the funny name.
C) That demand still exists and regrettably the various Yellow Pages never seem to have leveraged the incredible assets they had. Their search functions are still very error prone, serving up telephone numbers for completely nonsensical companies and not always including the one you’re really looking for. If you’ve bothered to use an online 411 process, just think of the last half dozen searches you’ve done to confirm the truth of this.
D) Of course the data is not very clean as William Slawski and Mike Blumenthal pointed out. However the demand, particularly on the Mobile web, is so strong that whoever gets it right will have a real gold mine. Particularly when on the go with your Mobile device, the Mobile web is the only way to go to find what you’re looking for. Directories are irrelevant.
E) Given this, there is every incentive for Google to put a lot of effort into this application. No one else is likely to catch them.

Another area that is popular for search applications is when looking for instant information.  Often times it is necessary to access the backgrounds of individuals and mobile local search may help with this.  An instant background check, for example would be one such application where this would be useful.

As William Slawski notes in one of the comments on his Local Search post, “The intuitiveness and ease of use of a service like 877-520-FIND can help grow a user base for the information, and that may be incentive for many businesses to put more effort into getting their business information into those local searches.” I don’t believe there’s a need to grow the user base. We’re all eager to get such data and have been for many years. It would seem to be a big win/win/win opportunity for everyone.

NOTE: Although the 877-520-FIND website is viewable elsewhere, the service only works for the U.S. at present.

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Comments

Mobile Local Search, the most popular Internet application — 7 Comments

  1. Hi Barry,

    Great example with the Italian restaurant with the funny name.

    Regretfully, I had that experience a couple of weeks ago. The restaurant is only a couple of months old, has no web site, hasn’t been reviewed by the local newspapers, and has no footprints on the web at all. Fortunately for them, word of mouth has drawn customers to their doors.

    A client and I have occasional business dinner meetings, and we both wanted to try the new restaurant, which we were both referring to as “the place where Lum’s used to be.”

    Mobile local web search is a transformational technology. Like the radio, the telephone, and television before it, mobile local provides a way to interact with the world in a manner that changes how we do so significantly. I agree completely that it will become the most popular internet application. I think that what we’ve seen so far from it only scratches the surface of what we will gain from it, too.

  2. That’s an interesting thought, Bill, that Mobile Local Search could be a Transformational Technology. It’s a powerful phrase that doesn’t seem to have a very visible definition. Pat Gratton back in 2000 tried to explore the concept of Transformational Technology. I didn’t find too much more about it.

    It would seem that AI (Artificial Intelligence), Nanotechnology and even Blogging might be examples. How do they compare with the radio, the telephone, and television? I guess the earliest example is the printing press. .. or was it the wheel?

    Clearly the cell phone (mobile device) was such a technology. I think I’m inclined to agree with you that Mobile Local Search has such implications that it could also have its rightful place in the list.

  3. I think you can see an interesting progression in Google pushing local data out: first on the desktop, next with SMS text messaging, then with 520-FIND and now with Mobile Maps….

    As the data and the technology have improved, they are pushing the same data out an increasing number of paths, growing the user base each time as they go and growing it exponentially.

    I agree with Bill that this is transformational technology. I also think that we are at the beginning of the acceptance curve analogous to digital cameras 1989-90 although the acceptance rate could be much quicker.

    The computer has not achieved the tranformational impact of the sewing machine or the car and it probably won’t in its desktop/laptop form. But in the form of a smart phone with data access in the hands of billions it might achieve parity

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  6. Certainly the implications of mobile local search will have a huge effect on traditional ways of getting visibility on the local scene. To that extent, it clearly is disruptive.