With all the recent press about the largely two player race towards local search with Yahoo and Google battling for control of the bulk of local searches – I came across an interesting blog from Mark Law, MSN’s lead project manager for Virtual Earth. Ok, we knew Microsoft would get in the game – and they are, with not only localized search for restaurants and businesses locally – but also localized browsing through an interface which would allow users to hone in on particular locations and see exactly what exists on each street corner. It is an extremely promising (and somewhat scary) idea that every physical location on earth can be visualized locally. But one with obvious consumer benefits. They have a funny viral launch video about the new service.
An additional idea I read about from a developer blog was the idea of geotagging content (via Chandu Thotha), including Flickr photos, so that consumer generated media content is now also associated with a particular geography. The combination of local search, geotagging content – and initiatives like Virtual Earth point to a vast new equalizing opportunity for large and small companies alike to connect with customers in particular geographies. In many cases, location matters – but information overload online makes it difficult for users to get the right information when they need it. Making information accessible locally adds the next dimension of relevance beyond just targeting messaging – and makes it possible to achieve a level of targeting for interactive marketing efforts that will be unmatched by any other medium. MSN’s Virtual Earth offers an interesting model that might lead the way.
NOTE: Visit www.flashearth.com for a great flash site using both Google and MSN maps.