Skype Releases Find a Business Function and Merchant Reviews

From the Skype blog:

Although only a minor increase in the version number, from 3.0 to 3.1, this release contains a major new feature called SkypeFind. SkypeFind is one of the most interesting features that we’ve done in quite a while now. We call it “Local businesses you like”, and that’s what it is – a collection of businesses, with reviews and comments, built by everyone using Skype. There are three main things you can do in SkypeFind and some hidden tricks as well.

Adding and editing listings

To help build SkypeFind, you may want to add your own listings of businesses that are not yet on SkypeFind. Just click the “Add listing” button on the SkypeFind tab, or click “Edit this listing” when viewing a listing, and fill in the form.

skypefind_addlisting.jpg

Adding a review or comment

The next thing you may want to do is add a review or comment for a listing. In the search results view, you will see the “Add a review” button. You can add a review, picking one of the rating options. You can also add an optional text comment. You can add one comment per listing. If your opinion changes, you can always come back to this listing and edit your comment later. This might be useful if you were initially impressed by a business and so added a comment but service went down hill on additional visits.

skypefind_reviews.jpg

Find a business, any business

If you just want to search for a business, there’s nothing easier than simply going to the SkypeFind tab and entering your search details. As you typically want to find a business that is close to you, we automatically search for business in the country you listed in your profile, but you can choose a different country if you want. You also need to indicate what you are looking for, such as a “restaurant”, “pizza place”, “pet shop” or “florist”, and possibly a city or region name, although this is not mandatory.

client_skypefind.jpg

You then click “Search” and see the results.

skypefind_results.jpg

As you’ll notice, there’s a “Call” button right there. When you click it, you make a SkypeOut call to the phone number that is in this listing. But wait, there’s more… There’s a cool trick you can use when you are not sure what you’re looking for exactly. Throughout the SkypeFind interface, you see the “Ask your friends” link. You can post a question to your friends there, such as “What’s a good hotel in London?” Your mood message is then automatically set to this question, but with a twist: there’s a link to a public chat that’s automatically created.

skypefind_recommendations.jpg

Now, when your contacts see your mood message and click on it, they are automatically added to this public chat. You can then chat about hotels in London together.

skypefind_publicchat.jpg

GigaOM has additional information: “In the first few hours after Skype made the new beta client available, it already had 372 SkypeFind listings in 53 countries, Tamkivi said. He added that while there is no commercial advertising yet, the service may accept ads in the future. In terms of editorial control, Tamkivi says the SkypeFind pages will use a Wiki-like functionality so that the user community can change and correct entries. There will also be a direct link from each rating to Skype, where people can report abuses or malicious postings, Tamkivi said. There are no plans to make the SkypeFind ratings available to non-Skype users, he added.”

What it means: as Skype is all about calls and they have a tremendous installed base (they reached 500M downloads this week and they usally have 3.5 to 9 million users connected at any one time), this is potentially disruptive to any directory publisher or local search site. But it really depends on user adoption. We’ll have to see if Skype users are interested in doing other things than communicating with their main contacts. Main weakness: there is no data in the system. It needs to be built from scratch. As Download Squad says: “Right now, if you type restaurant into Skypefind, you get only 11 listings. And if you want to find a restaurant in Philadelphia, you’re out of luck. Personally, I would have been happier if Skype had first acquired a large database of businesses and then let users rank those services. Having a Skype411 button would be a lot more useful to me than Skypefind.” But in any case, this is to be followed very closely!

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