A New Local Search Product From Yahoo!

Om Malik over at GigaOm has discovered that Yahoo is testing a new local search product in Bangalore and New Delhi. Known as OurCity, it is a city guide-like product that brings together a bunch of Yahoo social media products like Del.icio.us, Upcoming, and Flickr. It is also meant to aggregate geographically relevant news, blogs, and info from Wikipedia.

This could be an intriguing local product given the geographic relevance of a range of content formats. Bringing more information and multimedia to specific geographies is an interesting area of local online media and is being done by PlaceBlogger (blogs), and TurnHere (video).

But for this to work, there will be a lot required of users and the jury is still out on the sustainability and scalability of the “folksonomy” strategy, being pushed strongly by Yahoo throughout its product line.

The benefit of course is a cost-effective way to acquire and index content and present it in new and interesting ways that have social relevance to users. For example, something that is already being done to some degree with Flickr is the geotagging of photos so that map mashups can be created that overlay photo links on maps.

Hillary Schneider gave an interesting example of this in her Keynote at the NAA show that showed a cross-country road trip plotted out on a map via picture links that pepper the route taken from Chicago to Los Angeles.

The question is, will there be enough users that will play ball, in order to have the critical mass of content and user engagement to build comprehensive social search products. Yahoo certainly thinks so.

Some evidence of user proclivities in this area was recently released in a Pew Internet and American Life Project study. It found that 28 percent of Internet users have tagged or categorized content such as photos, or blog posts. It also found that “on a typical day online,” 7 percent of internet users participate in the tagging of content.

So it is being done, but is this enough? It’s an interesting bet Yahoo is making and it will have a big effect on the company’s success metrics and search market share over the next few years. We shall see.

UPDATE: Yahoo has posted about “Our City” on the Yahoo Developer Network blog, where they reveal that the project came out of Yahoo’s Bangalore Hack Day developer event.

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