With vendors and service providers flocking to stake a claim in the still tiny but burgeoning local mobile search market, certain features are already en route to becoming competitive differentiators. On the top of the list is the ability to incorporate social data and groupthink into the results, if the latest experiments by Google and Yahoo are any indication.
Incorporating Social Media
Yahoo appears to be working on combining search with social media and interaction technology in an application that looks to be on a grander scale than anything currently in the market. The company received a patent last month for a contextual mobile local search application "based on social network vitality information."
According to the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office abstract, Yahoo is developing a search app which takes into account the location of the mobile device, a time of day, an event, information from the mobile user's calendar, past behavior of the mobile user, weather, social networking data, aggregate behaviors, information about proximity of a social contact - or even the mobile user's mode as determined by an avatar.
"By employing vitality information to perform a mobile search, better search results and a richer user experience may be provided that includes a sense of community, a sense of presence," the patent said.
The search app would also allow the mobile user to provide comments to others regarding his or her search results.
Google just tweaked its local mobile search algorithms to better reflect the user's current or previously-logged location (via Goggle Mobile Blog). A search for a certain keyword - Google uses the example "muse" for a Boston user - pulls up the most-often-sought terms in that area, including such as "museum of science boston" and "museum of fine arts boston".
On the other hand, users in San Francisco who begin their query with "Muse" will see suggestions for museums in the San Francisco area.
Growing MarketMobile local search ad revenues are expected grow to $130 million by 2013, according to BIA/Kelsey, with mobile local searches increasing to 35% of all searches by 2013.