I was a little skeptical when I first saw Charlene Li's weblog. Advertising itself as her "insights on technology developments in media & marketing", she'll presumably enlighten us about things from time to time. However, in her Yahoo goes mobile with search post, she does nothing of the sort:

Eventually, I expect Yahoo! to craft a partnership with wireless providers where location information is automatically fed into the search queries.

Funny, but I'm pretty annoyed that we're not already there. It's almost 2005! Why isn't my phone (which has GPS capabilities) able to tell services like Yahoo Mobile where the heck I am?

She doesn't really get into that.

Overall, I believe that the true value of Yahoo! Local and also, of Yahoo! Web Search on mobile devices is tie-in back to Yahoo! The instances when you would actually need this type of information will be far and few between, but when you need it, lo and behold, Yahoo!’s there to provide it for you.

Huh?

What does that even mean? If this tie-in is something that she sees as valuable, why doesn't she explain that a bit. How is it valuable? Why? What are some examples?

The only mildly interesting or original tidbit in her post was about how Yahoo briefed Forrester about mobile image searching:

The example Yahoo! gave during their briefing with Forrester was of someone sitting at a restaurant admiring the art on the walls, and doing an image search to see the artist’s other works. Hmmm…I can think of better ways to spend a nice dinner with someone than waiting for images to render on a small phone screen. There are few instances that I can think of where I couldn’t simply wait to get back to my computer to conduct an image search.

Heh.

Is that really the best example they could come up with?

What about pulling up product images when you're shopping? Or teenage boys browsing pics of the latest 19 year old fabricated lip-syncing singer? Either one seems more likely to me and I only spent 30 seconds thinking about it. I have to think there's some market research on the types of things people will actually search for.

Posted by jzawodn at October 30, 2004 07:35 PM

Reader Comments
# jr said:

I believe the problem is not that services like Y!Local haven't bothered handling it, I believe the problem is that the cell services simply aren't providing it.

I dug around for some time looking for how to access that data before I got the answer "You Can't".

Let's face it, if the location service was available to query, I'm pretty damn sure SOMEONE out there would be offering stuff built off of it.

on October 31, 2004 12:34 AM
# Stephen Kitt said:

Cell phones providing location information is common in Europe, although as far as I know not for "general" search engines yet. The services I use which make use of location information are for example "where's the nearest ATM?", "what's the weather forecast for my area?", "what's the nearest cinema showing this film around now?" etc. Service providers don't automatically make the information available; every time a service requests it, the provider asks the user if it's OK to provide the info.

on October 31, 2004 01:54 PM
# Charlie Sierra said:

Wireless carriers are NOT going to make GEO info available until they figure how they'll be paid, ie. from who, and how much, etc.

Yahoo is smart to bootstrap these services and then leverage the expectations of the carrier's own subscriber base against the carrier.

Bottomline, until the carriers realize that they are NOT going to be paid, we'll just have to way for them to capitulate.

on October 31, 2004 03:27 PM
# Minger said:

"Overall, I believe that the true value of Yahoo! Local and also, of Yahoo! Web Search on mobile devices is tie-in back to Yahoo! The instances when you would actually need this type of information will be far and few between, but when you need it, lo and behold, Yahoo!ís there to provide it for you."

The real money is still in search and the face of search is spreading to many fronts, in the way soda pop spread from the druggist's counter to the vending machine and mini-fridge in myriad places.

The recent experience with my personal blogs has made me much more conscious of the search engine space. Until now, to me, Google has been synonymous with "search," and MSN and Yahoo! were non-entities. That changed when I started reading ysearchblog, poring over my http server logs and doing searches on my writing. I came to appreciate the maturity, competitiveness, and hunger of these alternative search offerings. However, my referrer logs show that Google still clearly dominates the space.

One of the "tie-ins back to Yahoo!" created by Yahoo! Local and search on mobile devices is the blooming in the public mindset of the meme "Yahoo! means search too." In this frame, these two offerings are mindset conversion tools.

I've seen media buys in conventional media for Yahoo! Local. Presumably they are aimed at everybody, from current Yahoo! service users to non-users alike. Contrast that with Google's reliance on free PR and capital investment and extension of search into the blogging, email, newsgroups, and alliances.

If Google had Yahoo's portfolio, you can be sure they would be extending search into Yahoo Groups, Yahoo Mail, Yahoo Finance forums, and Yahoo chat. I haven't been to Yahoo chat in ages, so I can't report on what is going on there, but the first three are still rich untapped conversion opportunities.

The existing search function on Yahoo Groups and the Yahoo Finance forums basically suck. The search only seems to cover the few recent posts and is good for one keyword. The rich trove of information and discussion on those servers is largely inaccessible; compare that to groups.google.com. (I'd have to pull the posts down from Yahoo with a perl script and have Google Desktop index them. BTW, check out Google's Group 2 Beta, groups-beta.google.com.)

Each of these services represents a relationship with a customer who also keeps a position map, ala Al Ries and Jack Trout, in their head. So when I think stocks and stock information, I think finance.yahoo.com but the shitty search there makes me think Yahoo! = !search, and when I do have to search for something, I naturally don't think to use the !search people. That is the position battle Yahoo has to fight en mass and that is why pouring marketing dollars into Yahoo Local! is likely to be ineffective in challenging Google's dominance in my referrer logs.

on November 1, 2004 01:18 PM
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