Ask Debuts Revamped Local Search

Hoping to break into the nascent local search market, Ask on Monday introduced AskCity, an application that brings together several different search categories into a single service.

From the same interface, users would able to search for businesses, events, and movies. In addition, they would also be able to get directions to search results. The company is betting the integration will draw users away from its competitors, such as Google Maps, Yahoo! Local, and Microsoft's Windows Live Local.

To make this possible, Ask has brought together the strengths of its sister companies within InterActiveCorp such as Citysearch, Evite, Ticketmaster, and TicketWeb, and combined it with data culled from its partners across the Web. Data providers include Fandango, OpenTable, TripAdvisor, StepUp, and Wcities.

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Jim Lanzone, CEO of Ask.com, said the chief goal of AskCity was to make local search a better experience. He noted that while it's a popular method of searching, local search has one of the lowest satisfaction ratings. He believes that Ask has succeeded in creating a product that addresses those concerns.

"The result is, we believe, the most comprehensive and flat-out helpful local search product available," he added.

The interface allows searchers to easily customize the service to their needs, as well as share search results with others. A user could "pin" their results in order to create an itinerary or save it for later use. Additionally they can share snapshots or information to a cellular phone or via e-mail.

The Snapshot functionality is part of the broader redesign to Ask's mapping service that launched in February. The feature allows a user to take a "snapshot" of the map with directions, pins, and annotations intact.

Other functionality added at that time include annotations, neighborhood and zip code bounding, and directions that can be customized for those walking to their destinations.

Web pundits applauded AskCity for its ease of use and rich feature set. "We've previously named Yahoo Maps the top maps application on the Internet," Michael Arrington of TechCrunch wrote on Sunday. "Tonight we're not so sure."

Arrington said that AskCity's biggest strength is its tie-in with Citysearch, which has over a decade's worth of experience in the local content market.

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