Will Ubiquity change the way we use Local

Mozilla Labs introduced Ubiquity today. What is Ubiquity? Not really sure but it seems to be/do the following:

-It is a natural language command interface for Firefox.
-Words invoke commands that interact with API’s and social networks
-A cool way to create mashups on the fly that communicate your intent
-A new way to interact with Local information

It appears that like all command driven interfaces you need to learn something and that will slow adoption. As Robert Scobie points out it is only for the passionate users who want to be more productive. He says: What is it? It’s a box that lets you ask different questions and get answers. It’s sort of like search. But far more powerful.

But here are the examples that caught my eye:
Example of Ubiquity Mashup

The ability to create a personalized map with directions on the fly without doing the heavy lifting of going to Google Maps, entering the address etc etc appeals to me. A one stop shop to share local information with your friends and social network.

Hmm, what do you think? Will it, or something like it, gain widespread adoption? Will it lead the way to increased integration of social networks and local into our every day routines of communication? Or will it just be too much commitment for most people to learn?

(The original) Local Links of Interest

U.S. on Track to Top Mobile Net Market, Study Says – Steve McClellan, AdWeek.com

Why the change? Kerr cites several reasons, including the fact that U.S. mobile carriers are rapidly building out 3G networks, which facilitate the transmission of mobile Web-based video at faster rates, something that U.K. and other European-based carriers did years ago. Plus, newer handsets available in the U.S. offer higher quality reception of video and music and cheaper subscriber plans have boosted sign-ups among consumers, he said.

The most highly trafficked sites tend to be those offering news, sports and weather, with spikes occurring during rush hour and lunch breaks. “Growth in the U.S. has really come on strong in the last two years,” he said.

VoIP Goes Mobile – Olga Kharif, BusinessWeek.com

Gorilla, iCall, and a growing number of other services rely on what’s known as Voice over Internet Protocol technology that delivers speech via the Internet in much the same way as e-mail. VoIP calling is already raising a ruckus in telecommunications, putting pressure on the price of land-line calling and luring subscribers toward upstarts like Vonage (VG) and Comcast (CMCSA) away from incumbents such as AT&T, and Verizon (VZ). Now, the technology threatens to erode sales for mobile-phone service providers too.

Load Your User’s Location on the Map! – Pamela Fox, GooglegeoDevelopers

Wouldn’t it be better if the map could automatically center to my location without me lifting one of my precious fingers? The answer is yes, and now it’s easier to do than ever with the introduction of IP-based location information in the AJAX APIs framework

Local Links of Interest

Location-based services now hotter than hot? – Martijn Beijk,  martijnbeijk.com

Location-based services are hot. Now hotter than before. Because Google just launched their Geolocation API. What does this mean in general for software or services we are going to see?

Well imagine opening up your browser or software application on your mobile phone or laptop and do a search for restaurants. No need to fill in where you are, the software will determine this using the geolocation API.

Visualizing Restaurant Searching - Andrew Turner, highearthorbit.com

Context mining of mobile devices, combined with geographic location – and especially via inferred geographic information instead of directly volunteered information can yield interesting trends on ambient behaviors. Imagine if UrbanSpoon could also collect the number of people in the group by detecting other repeatedly seen nearby bluetooth/wifi devices, previous meals of the day, and the ultimate destination and distance to the chosen restaurant.

2008 SEOmoz Expert Seminar Recap – David Mihm


Urbanspoon on the iPhone Heatmap

Urbanspoon’s iPhone application is a fun, engaging app that uses the features of the iPhone and location awareness to create a unique local discovery experience.

They are now showing a heatmap (thanks to High Earth Orbit) showing where the shakes have been taking place for the last 24 hours:

According to Urbanspoon:
6,000,000 shakes
300,000 iPhones have downloaded the application
1,000 shakes a minute at peak
20 shakes per iPhone
10 days so far

Comparing the Local Onebox with the Maps business directory: an architectural view

This guest article is written by Erek Dyskant, a database analyst, who has written a number of apps that interface with Google Maps and Yahoo Local. It provides an interesting look at the inner workings of the Google Maps database.

As I’ve been reading about some of the discrepancies between the Google Maps business directory and the Local Onebox, I thought that I’d shed some light on the likely architectural differences between the two approaches.

Google’s main search is highly distributed, based on the approach that search results need to be both quick and impervious to natural disaster. However, it’s not important that the main search results be identical across all their datacenters. If a specific site is 5th in one datacenter, but 9th in another, or one has a more recently updated version of a site than another, that’s not a major concern to Google.

However, the Google Maps Business Directory has different priorities. Data consistency is much more important as they’re dealing with structured data submitted by trusted data sources, and general purpose databases are more suited to the task at hand. While I don’t have any information to back this up, I expect that they’re using Oracle or MySQL as the datastore for the Business Directory. Continue reading Comparing the Local Onebox with the Maps business directory: an architectural view

Google Mapspam – a violated Public Trust?

Update 8:00 am EDT 8/24/08: As of this morning Google seems to have pulled the main page OneBox results noted below but the deceptive listings still appear in Maps. The search phrase local STD testing, Tulsa is still returning a Local Onebox.

Update 8/25/08 10:00 am EDT: Google has stopped showing local results on the search phrase local STD testing, Tulsa but the bogus listings are still in Maps.

Google Mapspam has been an ongoing problem for Google. In attempting to allow easy listing of large numbers of locations via bulk upload, Google Maps has allowed a large number of exploitive listings to appear. These listings are annoying when they unfairly compete with legitimate local business. They are down right troublesome when they exploit folks in need of help.

To Google’s credit, they recently started a public forum for reporting of Mapspam. On August 19th, a posting to that forum caught my eye as it demonstrated all that is problematic with Mapspam in its use to exploit vulnerable populations with less than forthright information. To Google’s shame, they have not acted on these reports in a timely fashion.

This particular mapspam shows up on the phrase “local HIV testing + Locale” throughout the west, midwest and south often dominating the Local OneBoxes. Here is the Mapspam in question on the search local Hiv Testing Tulsa:

I asked Charles Loosen, an HIV educator in Washington State what his ethical concerns were with these types of listings. His answer ranged the gamut of concerns from selling a needed public service that is usually free/low cost to privacy issues. Here is his repsonse:

Continue reading Google Mapspam – a violated Public Trust?

Local Links of Interest

IYP Reach in the US (according to Google) – Amed Farooq, TechSoapbox.com

A quick, but informative, look at the relative importance of stand alone IYP domains using Google’s Ad Planner. 

TomTom’s Mobile Network Strategy – Mike Dobson, Telemapics.com

Last time we were speculating on how TomTom (and TeleAtlas) might deploy technology that would allow them to collect real-time routes. We described the potential advantages of capturing these types of data and indicated that this was the “end-game” of interest to both TomTom and Nokia.

Developing the infrastructure to collect these “path” data is a critical, limiting issue for the future of the industry. Today, we will describe possible strategies that would allow TomTom to accomplish this development. We will look at Nokia’s situation in a future blog.

Ten Things I Want On My Mobile Phone – Fred Wilson, avc.com

Top 10 Gaining Categories of web properties show strong local direction

Comscore recently announced the Top 10 Gaining Categories of web properties. I have noted those that were explicitly local in bold and those that are likely to entail a significant local component in italics:

comScore Top 10 Gaining Categories by Percentage Change in Unique Visitors (U.S.)

July 2008 vs. June 2008

Total U.S. – Home, Work and University Locations

Source: comScore Media Metrix



Total Unique Visitors (000)



% Change

Total Internet : Total Audience




Travel – Ground/Cruise




Retail – Consumer Goods




Retail – Mall




Retail – Movies




Travel – Information




Travel – Hotels/Resorts




Online Gambling




Retail – Tickets




Entertainment – News




Career Services and Development





Vincent Cert: Mobile is where its at

In a Sunday comment piece in the Guardian UK/ the Observer, Vincent Cerf highlighted his belief that most of the world will access the internet via their cell phones and that will lead to an explosion of online information:

There are more than three billion mobiles in use today and more than 80 per cent of the world’s population live within range of a network. In areas where wireline or WiFi access barely exists, many new users will first experience the internet through a mobile phone. In developing economies, people are already finding innovative ways to use mobile technology. Grameen’s micro-finance and village phone programmes in Bangladesh and elsewhere are known and respected around the world, but there are many less famous examples. During the Kenyan elections, Mobile Planet provided its subscribers with up-to-the-minute results by text message. As the cost of mobile technologies fall, the opportunities for such innovation will continue to grow.

We’re nearing the tipping point for mobile computing to deliver timely, geographically and socially relevant information. Researchers in Japan recently proposed using data from vehicles’ windscreen wipers and embedded GPS receivers to track the movement of weather systems through towns and cities with a precision never before possible. It may seem academic, but understanding the way severe weather, such as a typhoon, moves through a city could save lives. Further exploration can shed light on demographic, intellectual and epidemiological phenomena, to name just a few areas.

It’s amazing how quickly those of us with internet access have come to take for granted the remarkable amounts of information we have at our disposal, but we’re only seeing the beginnings. The bulk of human knowledge remains offline. As more of us get access to the internet, more of the world’s information will find its way online.

Both the medium (cell phones) and the message (the increased amount of human knowledge) speak directly to the growing role that local will play in the ecosystem of information retrieval.

Developing Knowledge about Local Search