News Grab Bag: ContactAtOnce!, Bret Taylor and Jim Norris, DexKnows.com, New Headings in Canada

A selection of some of the praized-worthy news in the last few days:

1) ContactAtOnce!, a provider of presence-aware solutions (click-to-call, IM, etc.) just announced that BargainNews.com, one of their customers, improved the conversion rate of its auto classified website by 77% after adding the ContactAtOnce! service (see screenshot below) to their enhanced advertising packages.

BargainNews Listing Contactatonce

2) Bret Taylor and Jim Norris (both seen below), two of the masterminds behind Google Maps and several other Google products, have joined Benchmark Capital as “Entrepreneurs in Residence.” This gives them paid positions to hang out at Benchmark’s offices on Silicon Valley’s Sand Hill Road and think through starting a business. They have a specific idea in mind, but are secretive about it, telling VentureBeat only that it’s a “consumer Internet” company. I’ve had the chance to work closely with Bret when Google launched their Local site in Canada and it was great fun. I wish them both good luck! (via VentureBeat)

Bret Taylor Jim Norris Google Maps

3) R.H. Donnelley officially launched DexKnows.com, their new local search web site powered by Local Matters (previously known as Dexonline.com). It now includes comparison shopping, a better mapping experience and some personalization tools.

DexKnows.com home page

4) Yellow Pages Group in Canada released their latest heading modifications. It’s always interesting as it gives us a perspective into changes in culture and society. Amongst others, Pilates, Organic Products, Geothermal Energy, Tapas, Brunch, Vegetarian & Vegan Foods are in. Telephone Booths, Shoulder Pads, Chewing Gum and Buttonhole Makers are out.

Write Merchant Reviews in Google Maps

(via the Google Lat-Long Blog)

Google Maps has offered a collection of reviews assembled from some of the finest sources on the web for some time, but now we’re augmenting those with reviews from an even better source: you — and, we hope, millions of other opinionated Google users. Search for your favorite places and click on the “More Info” link. From there, click on “Write a Review” to start giving your two cents.

Ty-Coq Montreal in Google Maps

What it means: user reviews in a local search site environment are becoming more and more a must-have feature. You should be looking at it if you operate in that space. By the way, this new Google Maps feature means that they are slowly moving from a content aggregation strategy to a content creation strategy in their local search section.

Everyscape: 3D City Navigation Based on 2D Photos

(via O’Reilly Radar)

Everyscape aims to be able to show you the whole world — both inside and out — from its website. It plans to do this with normal 2D photos. Using proprietary technology Everyscape will stitch these photos together and 3D-ify them. The result is a pan-n-scan world accessible through a Flash viewer.

When looking at their viewer you are presented with small, green arrows that direct you around their representation of the realworld. When you click one of the arrows you zoom though the 3D’d photo (a neat affect). It’s not just outside some of the arrows will take you inside buildings. Throughout the app you’ll see web links and info boxes in the form of small blue circles. You can currently check out San Francisco’s Union Square with the Everyscape
viewer.

Everyscape demo Union Square

Everyscape demo Union Square

Everyscape demo Union Square

To make their representation of the world Everyscape needs to know the lat-long and the orientation of the camera when a picture was taken. This data is used to stitch the photos together and place them in the world. The comparisons to Microsoft’s Photosynth are very obvious. The models generated by Everyscape are less CPU-internsive to generate and require less data, but are not nearly as detailed — given Everyscape’s goal I am not sure that it needs to be. (…)

Everyscape is launching with San Francisco this fall. They told me that they would have ten cities by the end of the year. On the homepage they list San Francisco, Boston, New York , and Seattle as coming soon. They claim that takes three weeks for them to record a city (the same number that MS quoted at Where 2.0) so expect the roster to expand quickly after the initial batch. (…)

Everyscape is still determining their revenue model. They can easily embed advertising and local search into their application. There may be other methods of monetizing their “eye-level search”. Real estate agents would probably love to put their houses up in a viewer like this. (…)

Update: Techcrunch has more information about the various players in this space.

What it means: I had seen the Microsoft technology last year at Mix06 and it really excited me. More players in the field means more opportunities for technology licensing (and better prices!). I think I’ve said before I’m a big believer in 3D visual city navigation. I’m convinced that it will become a new way to do local searches in the future. In the demo above, you can even enter in the Salvatore Ferragamo store!

Salvatore Ferragamo store Union Square

Google Improves Transit Information in Google Maps

(via the Google Maps blog)

For some time now we have been “painting” icons for transit stops into our maps. While it was helpful to be able to see where to catch a train or bus, it left a lot of people wishing they could click on the icon to get more information about a specific station. Now that’s all changed! Depending on the data available for a given public transit system, Google Maps now shows the next departure times, what lines serve a specific station, and/or a link to the transit agency to get more detail. Try clicking on one of the little bus or tram icons on this map of Zurich, Switzerland, to see what we mean. You can also search for stations (for example “59th St – Columbus Circle Station, new york“).

What it means: very zeitgeist-y. Transit system information is becoming more and more important as people decide to leave their car at home to reduce their environmental footprint. If your site uses maps and driving directions (especially local search and directory sites), you should be thinking of embedding similar information. Start discussing with your local transit authorities.

Google StreetView: Potential Privacy Issues are Surfacing

By now, I’m sure everyone in the search industry is aware that Google launched their street view pictures within Google Maps (and also the acquisition of Panoramio). Not surpringly, articles are popping up about potential privacy issues. The best answer I’ve seen so far is from Lauren Weinstein, a renowned expert in Internet privacy.

His conclusion: “So, bottom line — for now the Google Maps street level photos provide a useful service and should not raise significant privacy concerns, except for a tiny percentage of photos that can be easily expunged. Whether this benign situation will remain the case depends upon Google’s decisions regarding the service moving forward.”

What it means: as I believe visual navigation is a key element of the future of local search, I invite everyone interested in the subject to read Lauren’s remarks on the launch of Google StreetView.

Praized-Worthy Today: LocalGuides.com, i411 & Publicar, Directories.ch

Lots of things I want to blog about today (the Facebook f8 Platform announcement, Christer Pettersson’s presentation at the EADP conference) but, as I’m just coming back from Barcelona, I have a lot of catching up to do and am still jet-lagged. So, here’s a grab bag of noteworthy news that happened while I was away:

  • Local Matters launched a beta version of LocalGuides.com, their Local-Social play (what I call Local 2.0). Perry Evans had shown me an alpha release a few weeks ago and I was very impressed with the concept and the site. They describe it as “a new approach to creating a “social-local” experience in the Local Search domain”. Perry adds: “The site empowers consumers with the tools to create, annotate, expand and share lists of local businesses
    and places – publishing their own personal local guides.” You can read more on Perry’s blog. I’ll get back to it in a few days once I’ve had the chance to play with it.
  • Publicar announced the re-launch of their local search engine for Latin America at www.PaginasAmarillas.com. The new site powered by i411 provides business and residential information for 14 countries in Latin America.

Praized-Worthy Today: LocalGuides.com, i411 & Publicar, Directories.ch

Lots of things I want to blog about today (the Facebook f8 Platform announcement, Christer Pettersson’s presentation at the EADP conference) but, as I’m just coming back from Barcelona, I have a lot of catching up to do and am still jet-lagged. So, here’s a grab bag of noteworthy news that happened while I was away:

  • Local Matters launched a beta version of LocalGuides.com, their Local-Social play (what I call Local 2.0). Perry Evans had shown me an alpha release a few weeks ago and I was very impressed with the concept and the site. They describe it as “a new approach to creating a “social-local” experience in the Local Search domain”. Perry adds: “The site empowers consumers with the tools to create, annotate, expand and share lists of local businesses
    and places – publishing their own personal local guides.” You can read more on Perry’s blog. I’ll get back to it in a few days once I’ve had the chance to play with it.
  • Publicar announced the re-launch of their local search engine for Latin America at www.PaginasAmarillas.com. The new site powered by i411 provides business and residential information for 14 countries in Latin America.