Tag Archives: ulocate

Great Products Do Three Things….

2 Mar

Yahoo! is a complex place to build products, and I recall early in my tenure trying to focus our Media and Information Division on three core objectives that would be clear, undebatable and useful in building better consumer products.

I won’t go into the details of how we got there (although that’s an interesting story). But get there, we did. And we believed then, as I do today, that a great product:

1. Saves customers’ time.

2. Saves customers’ money.

3. Delights customers in new ways.

Seems simple? Well, in my experience this is far easier to say than it is to do.

I am reminded of this today because after some very hard work, the WHERE team (full disclosure: I am a board member) has launched a feature called Placebook in its new location-based app build that does all three. And thank heavens, because the pain relieved by this new release is large and longstanding.

Placebook is a constantly updatable ‘Rolodex’ of your (and your friends) favorite spots. You can use it on your IPhone. You can access it on the web. (They sync)! And you can FORGET having to REMEMBER all those names, addresses, phone numbers, etc.

You might be wondering “what’s the excitement?” Please let me answer that, from a personal POV.

Have you ever had the experience of knowing that the restaurant you love, in a city you visit frequently, is just around the corner somewhere. But you can’t recall the address, or exactly the route to get there, or even the restaurant’s name? Frustrating? Time-wasting? Totally useless?

The problem is solved. Go to a restaurant, or any favorite spot. Click once in the WHERE app to store it to your Placebook. Click again to give it a rating. And from now on, you can simply forget about having to remember. Once stored, your profile and Placebook will remember for you.

Now, the WHERE guys are not the first folks to think of this. There are countless listing and reviews services. There are competitors. Once upon a time there was a clever startup called Vindigo that did something similar. It was useful, too.

But Placebook is a big step forward, right now.

Of course, simply building such great features as Placebook are no guarantee in and of themselves of a huge business success. Building better products is simply a gating issue that allows successful companies onto the battlefield that will determine their ultimate ability to go from ‘Good to Great’ as Jim Collins puts it.

But it is a great start to have a great product, filled with useful features. And — on behalf of busy, forgetful people all over, thank you to the WHERE team for solving this particular problem.

Search Engine Wars V: Local Personal Awareness

8 Dec

A holiday dinner last night with some of uLocate’s senior team and the leadership of a major telecom carrier raised an interesting discussion of where search is going.

My view: the next big battle in search is going to be about providing search results BEFORE you even ask a question. The next big frontiers for Search include knowing your location without you having to provide it, knowing your likely queries before you type anything into the searchbox, and knowing your behavioral profile (needs, wants, interests) without you having to do anything.

This is the battlefield for Search Engine Wars V — and it is going to be a major showdown, pitting such behemoths as Google and Microsoft against each other, and with smaller armies from the Facebooks, Twitters and uLocates of the world making alliances and contributing arms and assets to the fray.

A quick recap to point out how we got here. The search wars began in the mid-1990s, when the Infoseeks, Yahoos, Excites, Lycos’s and Alta Vistas brought text search to the mass consumer market via the public internet. Before then, text search and data retrieval had been a large, lucrative backwater — a paid product in the business-professional world (remember such brands as Dialog, Lexis-Nexis, Dow Jones News Retrieval — now known as Factiva?)

Those first search companies went public, made millions, were sometimes acquired (Disney-Infoseek, @Home-Excite) or sometimes went under. After that, search became a feature in what became known as the portal wars. I call this period Search Wars II. Many of the technical leaders thought text search was a finished product, and lost their focus on improvements while turning instead to such important initiatives as personalization, feed syndication and e-commerce tools.

This inattention left open search world to Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who did a brilliant job of improving search and threw down the gauntlet of Search Wars III: The Rise of Google. And, more recently with the launch of its vastly improved Bing service, Microsoft has at long last battled back — and, coupled with its Yahoo search deal — is fighting hard in Search Wars IV.

That’s why I believe it is time to think about what’s next. And to my mind, the next battle in search is going to be about saving users time and effort by providing knowledge about likely searches before a customer has to type anything into the search box.

We can already see some of this, with services such as uLocate’s WHERE, which begins to understand some basic information about you (e.g. your location) from your voluntarily-supplied data on your mobile device. With that information, uLocate can tell you the location of nearby businesses (Starbucks, a gas station, the closest Fedex Office or UPS store) as well as provide you with tips and reviews about local restaurants, nightspots, etc. The user doesn’t have to DO anything, other than turn on their mobile device and launch the application.

There is much improvement ahead. Some may argue that the big fight today is about real-time search, but I think that is only a new skirmish in the current Search Wars IV. Only the barest outlines of the battle formations for the big next thing are apparent today. But I am putting some of my bets on those businesses that are preparing for this world of next-generation search.

Let the battles commence….

Note: Danny Sullivan had a related post on Google’s personalized approach here.