Paul Levine, who runs Yahoo Local, made the trek up to Marin earlier this week and we had a chance to chat about any number of things. I’ve been a fan of Yahoo Local for some time, it was the first from the big three, and remains the best, as far as I can tell. Google is on it, of course, and has very cool features, but with 360 and MyWeb, Yahoo has social network integration, and I think this is an important distinction. After talking to Paul for a while, I became convinced that A/Google may well dust off Orkut and actually make it useful for search, B/Google may finally figure out why it bought Blogger, and C/Yahoo can succeed if it really does open up its 360 platform to accept data from all comers. In fact, if 360 has hooks that let developers feed data in, and pull data out, it may well become the first social networking platform with a killer app beyond getting laid (I see Paul, above, did get lei’d…) – and that app will be search.
As I’ve said before, I have no interest in building yet another social network. However, if doing so will offer me a significant benefit – like really personalized search, and/or search based on my friends preferences, posts, and input – well, maybe I’d be motivated. I still don’t want to invite them all in, though, and go through that whole Orkut baseball trading card craze. So if someone hacks up a neat integration tool for Linked In, Apple’s address book, AIM, etc., why, I’d be in for it. And if Yahoo opens up 360 APIs to allow that, why, I imagine someone will do just that.
Secondly, I found myself becoming curious about the odd competitive issues surrounding all this social network and local data that is accumulating around Yahoo Local and 360. Clearly it’s to Yahoo’s benefit to rank well in Google for all that content. Paul showed me a review he did of a Valley auto dealership called Boardwalk Auto Center (hey Paul, is your review linkable? It should be! All I could find to link to was the dealership page on Yahoo Local, where your review is included). Anyway, as I looked at his review, I thought to myself: “Huh. I wonder if that review will be spidered by Google, and come up in Google’s index as relevant content when someone does a Google Local search for, say, “Boardwalk Auto Center” or “Nissan dealer Redwood City“. Seems to me if Google was truly trying to find the best local content, Paul’s review on Yahoo Local would be very pertinent.
What you do find, after a couple of clicks, is some CitySearch reviews. Huh.
Levine told me that in fact, a lot of Yahoo Local content has matriculated into the Google index, and that he’s sure that will continue. Search, especially Google search, is a critical distribution channel for his products. As Google, MSN, and Yahoo fire up their competitive engines, I wonder how long each will be willing to spider the others proprietary content. Worth keeping an eye on.