September 22, 2004

Going Local

There's a lot of activity in the social-network-based local listings recommendations arena right now. Think "friendster meets epinions meets".

There's Judy's Book (a name instantly reminding me of Craig's List), based in Seattle. Andy Sack, its CEO, has a new blog where he's going into amazing detail about the company's financing (amazing as in, I'm surprised the VCs are comfortable with him outlining the day-to-day saga of how he got funded). Nevertheless -- I'm really glad to see this openness and I hope it continues, and spreads.

Then there's, out of Boston, focusing on restaurant recommendations in various cities. Seems to me to be more of a feature in someone else's business than a business in its own right, but we'll see.

Finally there's IdeaLabs', another "local epinions" service which is running a beta test for the LA metro area. As of this moment, InsiderPages' homepage says there are 1053 "members" and 2585 "reviews".

InsiderPages and Judy's Book are social networks (notice the emphasis on "friends helping friends") geared at trusted recommendations of local goods and services. The hope is clearly that if your friends recommend something, you're more likely to try it out than if some stranger posts a recommendation in a local message board, or the local newspaper or other media outlet recommends it.

I suppose that would be true. Question is: will people be willing to join yet another social network and drag all their friends over to these services? Judy's Book lists as its #1 benefit getting "connected" -- "find your friends" and "learn more about them -- where they like to eat, shop and more!". I guess I wonder, if they're already your friends, don't you already know where they like to eat, shop, and more? Will a service like this add value to you and your friends, or are you and your friends doing most of the value-add back to this company?

I wonder if this application of social networking is going to work. I intend on keeping an eye on these three companies to see how they do.

Another way this might work is if it were more peer-to-peer based --- with your friend information (e.g. FOAF) maintained on your local machine, and the recommendations kept private among your trusted friends, but the directories of local goods and services distributed around the net as a web service that anyone could access. Such a model doesn't help these three companies, but it might get faster adoption since you're not joining yet another network.

Posted by brian at September 22, 2004 09:51 AM


The idea of having a site where friends, and friends of friends(many circles converging in difference places), could make recommendations on restaurants, movies, vacations, etc. is a good one. We often end up at places recommended by acquaintances. And sometimes the friend making the recommendation has never been but is relaying the recommendation of someone I don't know but who is considered a trusted source. I think the key is being able to trust the sources. Anyone making a recommendation would have to be able to have a secondary or tertiary relationship with the core group. Make sense?

Posted by: Brandon at September 22, 2004 01:35 PM

I like the idea of a city-blog or "metro-blog" that all the local bloggers contribute to - whether it's about restaurants or local issues or whatever.

Of course, we've got our own at

Posted by: oso at September 22, 2004 11:15 PM

I am also interested in watching to see whether these companies can make a business of it...I'm looking forward to dialoging with you about it ...stay tuned for our beta-launch in the next few months.

Posted by: asack at September 23, 2004 11:00 PM

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