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The Internet Technology

Who Are My Neighbors, Mr.Search Engine? 213

Posted by timothy
from the road-trip-wifi dept.
Phoe6 writes "'Google's goal is to connect searchers with the information they need whether it's halfway around the world or in their neighborhood,' said company co-founder Sergey Brin, as Google is unveiling its location-based search tool local.google.com. This is going heads on with Yahoo, as it put its SmartView content on its maps." Phoe6 also points to this AP story carried by the Houston Chronicle about "Verizon Communications' SuperPages.com, overhauled to deliver more useful local results." Google's service seems to work pretty well -- I've just located a few coffee shops with free wireless within easy walking distance. Update: 03/17 18:33 GMT by T : Here's a no-reg link to the same AP story.
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Who Are My Neighbors, Mr.Search Engine?

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  • by ackthpt (218170) * on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @02:13PM (#8590311) Homepage Journal
    [Chinese Restaurant Without MSG in Food and Real Vegetarian Option, no lying about it]

    Did you mean:
    Chinese Restaurant With MSG in Food and Without Real Vegetarian Option

    Your search - Chinese Restaurant Without MSG in Food and Real Vegetarian Option, no lying about it - did not match any documents.
    No pages were found containing "Chinese Restaurant Without MSG in Food and Real Vegetarian Option, no lying about it".

  • misleading title (Score:5, Insightful)

    by frazzydee (731240) * on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @02:14PM (#8590313)
    I think that the title is a little bit misleading. If you go to the site, the text directly above "Google Home" and "Local Search Help" says: "Find local businesses and services on the web." This isn't to find your neighbors: it's to find your nearest McDonalds, etc.
    Also, the local search help page [google.com] talks about finding businesses, and mentions nothing of finding specific people.
  • /. already? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Gunsmithy (554829) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @02:16PM (#8590334) Homepage
    "Server Error
    The server encountered a temporary error and could not complete your request.

    Please try again in a minute or so."

    Quick! Someone get a Google cache!
  • You slashdotted Gooogle!!

    Server Error
    The server encountered a temporary error and could not complete your request.

    Please try again in a minute or so.

    Truly this is a great day for the Web and the Internet as a whole
  • by ffub (322605) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @02:17PM (#8590344)
    Coudln't this just be added to the existing google interface with place: or location:?
  • by spludge (99050) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @02:17PM (#8590347)
    I'd have to say that most of these services are already way behind. Check out Verizon's map based search (as mentioned). They have a Java and HTML version.

    The Java version I've linked rocks. I've used it to find all of the sushi places within driving distances of my place :)

    Verizon Map Based Search [superpages.com]
    • Well, I tried 3 searches on both of the sites (verizon's and google's). On Google I was returned many matches in order of proximity. On verizon I just got a message telling me that no matches could be found for this location. The search included: Taco Bell Schnucks (a local supermarket chain) Bar
    • Yuk. One of the primary reasons why I go to google is because it's clean.. Verizon page: 66.8 KB Local Google page: 9.67 KB
    • Ho hum. We got umpteen responses saying the same stupid thing the last time Google announced a location-based search engine [google.com]. I'll repeat what I said then: the yellow pages web sites just query yellow pages databases, that you have to pay money to be in. A location-based search engine queries Google's huge, and free, database of web sites. I would think the difference would be obvious.

      Last time I cited a bunch of examples of things you could do with a location-based search engine that you can't do with a y

      • That's not true, you don't have to pay money to be in the yellow pages, it's free. In fact I believe they actually query several sources to get their information .

        If you want to put an advertisement in there though you have to pay.

        Listing in the yellow pages [superpages.com]
  • Needs Work (Score:5, Informative)

    by telstar (236404) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @02:17PM (#8590348)
    I searched for a hardware store close to my Manhattan zip code. The first entry is sending me about 4 miles south ... the second entry has me going to Jersey ... and the third puts me in Brooklyn. I'm all for sight-seeing, but not when I just want to buy a wrench.
    • by curiuz (587795)
      Wrench...? ....Oh, that sort of hardware.
    • Re:Needs Work (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Tassach (137772) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @02:46PM (#8590629)
      I searched for a hardware store close to my Manhattan zip code [and didn't find any nearby]
      Consider where you live: if you searched for overpriced pretentious yuppie coffee bars, you would have probably gotten 100 hits in a 5 block radius :-) If you did the same two searches for East Bumfuck, Indiana, you'd get very different results. The HardwareStore:CoffeeBar ratio in a rural farming community is going to be a lot higher than it is in a trendy urban neighborhood or in the 'burbs.
    • by cfc (52479)
      My results weren't exactly impressive, either.

      I searched for "free wireless coffee" and got a list of cell phone stores; okay, I understand the wireless, but where's the coffee? I searched for "brothel" and got a list of restaurants. "Stripper" turned up a furniture store; ok, fair enough. But how in hell does "porn" get me a list of ATTORNEYS!?
  • by myownkidney (761203) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @02:17PM (#8590349) Homepage
    What Rubbish!

    The form says: US address, city & state, or zip

  • How else could we slashdot Google? =)
  • US Only? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by IANAL(BIAILS) (726712) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @02:18PM (#8590358) Homepage Journal
    So are there any plans for Google to use a similar service in Canada? I'd love to try a search linked to my postal code, but it looks like it's only accepting Zip numbers...
    • Re:US Only? (Score:5, Funny)

      by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @02:26PM (#8590447) Homepage Journal

      So are there any plans for Google to use a similar service in Canada?

      Works for me:
      Postal Code:
      R3R 2E2
      City:Winnipeg, Manitoba

      You have:
      13 beer vendors within a 3 km radius.
      19 pubs within 4 km.
      23 hockey rinks within 6 km.
      22 meat markets (for back bacon) within 4 km.
      11 skate sharpening huts within 3 km.
      • LOL. You forgot Tim Horton's though. There are 20 in Winnipeg.
    • Re:US Only? (Score:5, Informative)

      by consolidatedbord (689996) <brandon@ihash[ ]s.com ['ack' in gap]> on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @02:29PM (#8590486) Homepage Journal
      RTFM. In the "Local Search Help" it explains why it has displayed only info for US. That is all that is supported for now, since the service is still beta. It also says that expansion to other countries will come in time.
      • But all the major location based services only work in the US.

        I declair a race: First one to search the world.

        Ready...

        Set...

        Go!


        -Colin [colingregorypalmer.net]
    • Re:US Only? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by The Bungi (221687)
      I can see using this service to search for things near hotels in countries where I vacation, for example. It would be useful if Google included data for common tourist traps and the like, at least in Mexico (closer to home) or Europe/Asia.

      Of course I'm sure people who live in said places would also find the service useful. I hope Google expands its support soon.

  • Luke 10:25-37 (NRSV)
    For more, go here [ozemail.com.au]
    • That's too bad- if you had quoted an answer to the question from a movie or t.v. show like Futurama you would have been modded to +5 Funny by now.

      This was pretty clever.

      • Re:Troll? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by JThaddeus (531998)
        Yeah, the joke just reached out and slapped me. But I figured some would see it as preaching rather than a gag that cuts both ways. Religion brings out zealots and as Washington Post [washingtonpost.com] humor writer Gene Weingarten [washingtonpost.com] notes, "Humor is largely cynicism and zealots are too earnest to be cynical."
  • Possible use(s)? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by lotsofno (733224) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @02:20PM (#8590376)
    I suppose someone with a small business could check out what sort of nearby competition they have using this.

    Also, when researching for possible locations for a business, maybe someone could type in their zip code to see whether or not the neighborhood already has people providing the planned service/goods?
  • by clark625 (308380) <clark625NO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @02:21PM (#8590383) Homepage

    I decided to look for all the weirdos that are near my home. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that the local Holiday Inn [google.com] was the first return (or that there seems to be an ample supply of others)...


    I think I need to move.

  • by von Prufer (444647) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @02:22PM (#8590392)
    I just looked up escorts and found a ton of matches! Thanks Google!
  • by Tony Hoyle (11698) <tmh@nodomain.org> on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @02:22PM (#8590393) Homepage
    I don't think Dominos pizza deliver across the atlantic...

    I suspect I *won't* be using this service to find a local business... :)
  • by osswid (451334) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @02:22PM (#8590395)
    Searching the three line greenbar yellow page listings is ok, but Google's keyword coverage seems a bit spotty. "94303 chinese food" doesn't turn up local results, but "94303 chinese" does.

    The free text geo-categorization seems to depend on finding full addresses in the web pages, not as sophisticated as Metacarta [metacarta.com] or Topix.net [topix.net]
  • Good! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Jesus IS the Devil (317662) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @02:23PM (#8590409)
    I say it's about time! Superpages.com and their likes have so far been nothing short of big disappointments. On superpages the results returned from simple searches are completely disappointing.

    Yellow page companies are basically putting their stuff online, thinking, as long as it's got similar features as their offline book versions, it's good enough. Well it's not. And it's about damn time a competitor like Google shows up to ruin their show.
  • Let's see...
    If I'm in the center of Europe, the nearest attractions are Io, Ganymede, Callisto, Metis, Thebe, Lida, Himalia...
  • by Phat_Tony (661117) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @02:25PM (#8590437)
    I wonder if this is part of a trend away from the common associations of the web being a giant globalized impersonal place full of strangers, and making it also have a more small and personal aspect- a good place to get information on (and maybe even interact or get involved with) your own neighborhood?

    I wonder what's next? Ebay neighborhood garage sales? Bid online, walk next door to pick it up? Web-conferencing the community association meeting? Using an online dating service to meet people instead of going out to a ba... wait a minute.
  • by Anti_Climax (447121) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @02:26PM (#8590451)
    I've just located a few coffee shops with free wireless within easy walking distance
    You don't need a search engine for that. Just a good directional antenna...
  • by jeffy124 (453342) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @02:27PM (#8590460) Homepage Journal
    too big a search default range. I did a simple search on "italian" as the keyword with an urban address and got hits more than 50 miles away by default. Much simpler, IMO, to do 1, 5, or 10 miles at first, then perhaps automatically ranging outward if there are a very small number of hits.

    In my search original result set (with the 50 miles range), I had the first few hits being a short distance away, then a chunk (ie, results 3-6) a great distance away, then another chunk (ie, results 7-10) back closer to home, with a lengthy divide between each set (ie, 1-3 and 7-10 were under 3 miles, while 3-6 were greater than 20 miles away. no italian in between seems quite odd for such an urban region). IMO, everything needs to be better sorted by distance from the input address.

    And lastly, number the entries when the map is displayed: When I initially searched, I did not get a map showing what hit was where. After clicking a link to obtain that map containing little numbers showing where each hit was located, and a short list to the right of the map showed which marker matched which result. It would be useful if this numeric list were also done down below where the results have more detail (like phone and address).

    Even despite the above, this is a pretty neat tool and could be rather useful for it's current state.
    • I think they're just ranking by distance and returning whatever the best 10 are. If the nearest result is 30 miles away, they return that one first instead of saying "Sorry, nothing within 10 miles, try a bigger range." If a 30-miles-away answer isn't acceptable to you, then you can determine for yourself that there are no useful results.
  • Go outside. Take a walk. Look around. Talk to people.

    Kids these days!

  • by Mr. Darl McBride (704524) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @02:29PM (#8590475)
    I was disappointed when I entered my address, then used "beer" as the search term. The first couple places were more than an hour away.

    Then I saw that one was a bar that offered FREE BEER WITH EVERY PACKERS TOUCHDOWN and I was like... blisssssss... I'm there. It really *did* put the best results first.

  • by Chris84000000 (735658) <chris@@@connett...net> on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @02:30PM (#8590490) Homepage
    Some might remember this from a while back. This feature's origins come from the Google Programming Contest. They said that the good entries might actually become google features if they had sufficient merit. The winner from 2002 [google.com] whipped up a prototype geographic search. I guess that this is the full-scale realization of that work.
  • Netflix [netflix.com] has a search feature that suggests movies based on your previous ratings of films. This is the type of thing that really ought to be applied to search engines and web logs. What I'd really like is the ability to say search for eateries near where I am that folks with tastes like mine liked--or posts on a weblog that folks with tastes like mine liked.
  • geourl (Score:5, Informative)

    by Stinson (564450) <cancerouspete.cox@net> on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @02:36PM (#8590544) Homepage Journal
    something that is like this is GeoURL [geourl.org]. maps coordinates to websites.
  • Evolving. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Haydn Fenton (752330) <no.spam.for.haydn@gmail.com> on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @02:44PM (#8590616)
    Google is rapidly evolving into one of, if not, the most advanced search engine in the world.

    Along with its regular search and local search, you can make an extremely customizable search with the following features:

    site:, link:, inurl:, allinurl:, intitle:, allintitle:, intext:, allintext:, filetype:, ext:, inanchor:, allinanchor:, phonebook:, rphonebook:, bphonebook:, daterange:

    As the words suggest, site: will search for the search terms in a specific site, or domain level (e.g. site:www.slashdot.org, site:.org), inurl: will search for the search terms in the URL as well as the content. allinurl: will search for the search terms only inside the url. filetype: will search for the search terms with results for only the specified filetype (e.g. filetype:.doc), etc.

    It also has a very complex calculator function, which comes into effect automatically when you enter a mathematical query (e.g. tablespoon / pi ^ e).

    It also (imo) has the best ranking system, which isnt bias by money (excluding the sponsored links).

    With google soon to bring out their own email, I can see google becoming an extremely wide used site (even more so than now) in the near future.

    *Hopes for his first +5, Intresting*...
    • I wish all of those prefixes were available in the Google toolbar plugin. Right now it only does plain vanilla searches(which I could use those exts), but it'd be nice in a GUI layout.
    • Google is rapidly evolving into one of, if not, the most advanced search engine in the world.

      If Google's actually evolving, it would be reproducing itself, with random mutations that through selection over time will enhance its abilities.

      Not that I'm putting that past Google's coders at all...
  • hummm (Score:3, Funny)

    by Chrome-Dragon (140684) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @02:48PM (#8590644) Homepage Journal
    Searched for goats in my zip code, first site returned was McDonald's Restaurants. I dont think im gonna eat at Mc'Ds any more.
  • by Mighty LoPan (633225) <[moc.oohay] [ta] [elzzonde]> on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @02:49PM (#8590654)
    Out of curiousity, I searched for "porn" near Southborough, MA. I got a listing of lawyers. Google must know that I'm browsing for porn at work.
  • if you do a normal google for a street address, it will point you to yahoo mapping.
  • .. but it's a start. And Google is still #1 for me. No fancy banners or junk about Hollywood's latest production, just the facts. Beautiful. Less is more.
  • Hey can someone post a mirror to the local.google.com? In case it gets slashdotted!?

    -matt
  • Its asking for directions. It should obviously be Ms. Search Engine.

  • Appears to be BETA (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hellfire (86129) <deviladv@gmCOFFEEail.com minus caffeine> on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @03:12PM (#8590834) Homepage
    As the Google logo on the page states, this appears to be a public BETA.

    I don't say this so that people don't critique the site yet.

    Rather, after you discuss here, send your critique to Google! I'm excited about this, but the sort order of the results shows me things in New Jersey before it shows me things in Pennsylvania (and I know there are three Chinese Restaurants right around the corner, closer than Jersey). I would hope that either they already know about some of these issues or would like to make the search engine more useful.

    The best place I could come up with was Google's Contact page [google.com], which has links to forums and the like, but no reference to local.google at all. If someone has a better place, please post it here. The local.google site has no contact link I can see.
  • What it appears Google is doing is taking whenever it gets a zipcode or phone number or city/state mention in its master web search database, they're mapping it to its GPS coordinates. For this search, they're tossing asside any results that don't have a GPS location determined, and then instead of ranking by PageRank order they're ranking by distance from the user-supplied location and the page's location.

    It's not a bad idea. Seems to have a few bugs in it, but that's why this is a Google Labs page rather
  • I actually had not noticed Googles Local search, there text renders small on my screen and I don't notice a lot of subtle changes they make. Anyway because of it I was able to find some local escorts in my town. Now I don't have to go to eros-guide.com and see all the chicks who are in every other city but mine YAY
  • ...are they giving credit (or a job) to the guy who won the Google Programming Contest [google.com]?
  • Not necessarily a bad thing, and you know with Google, they won't slack on the development of it, but a US-centric Internet is so 1997.
  • Anytime you have a lot of inter-state traffic, you can't just list by distance, you have to factor in the cost of commute.

    eg. coffee shops near Jersey City, NJ [google.com]

    Some of the hits in above search ( Hoboken,NJ & New York,NY ) require you to either

    a. Take a train, $3 ticket

    b. Take a ferry, $5 ticket

    c. Take the Hudson tunnel, $6 toll

    Costwise, these hits ( from NYC ) should be ranked way below any hits within the state of NJ, since you could drive from Jersey City,NJ to most anywhere else in NJ and

  • All AP and Reuters articles are carried at myway.com [myway.com] with no banners, popups, or registration. Just link to the story there next time to save everyone the hassle.

    btw, here's the link [myway.com] to this story's article.

  • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @04:42PM (#8591791) Journal
    Curious to figure out how it might work, I looked up my domain name. It gave me an address in Redwood City, CA. WTF?

    (I once hosted with an ISP who had a POP there, but not at that location. My domain record has my correct address, as well as the correct contact addresses - which are in a different city in the same metro area.)

    Digging around with google for that street address came up with Greatcircle - the maintainers of the majordomo mailing list. Nice guys, but I've never been associated with them. (Ought to install it some day. Back when I hosted mailing lists I administered them manually.)

    Turns out that they've been using my domain name in their documentation as a generic domain name. And the doc is all over the web - including several mailing list archives in which Brent Chapman's signature appears, giving the company address. B-) Of course the doc is also on their website, as is there address.

    Given the broad use and extensive documentation of majordomo, and the relatively low profile of my own little consulting firm, I suspect that my domain name appears on the net more often associated with the former than the latter.

    I suspect the service is using webcrawler information to create a database of search terms vs things-that-look-like-addresses (either on the same page or the same site) then scoring matchups by frequency, and the search engine returns the highest score.

    (Meanwhile I've found out where the spambots are harvesting one of the bogus usernames that keep showing up in spam to my site. B-) )
  • Aarrrrrgghhhhh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by attaboy (689931) * on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @04:55PM (#8591910)

    It looks like a great service, except for one thing:

    Just like yahoo (aka Yahoo Maps) and many other online services, google uses MapQuest to provide directions.

    I wish more sites would instead start using the company formerly known as MapBlast/Vicinity. Their Line Drive maps are much easier to use, and their directions are much better, at least based on extensive personal experience.

    Granted, they got bought by the Beast, but the technology still works...

    I wonder what Mapblast is doing wrong that the consistently inferior service gets consistently greater exposure and linkage?

    Maybe one of these days I can figure out a way to turn a link like this [mapquest.com] into a link like this [mapblast.com]

    Maybe a combination of a hosts file entry and a quickie PHP script on my personal Web server to parse and redirect... Or would that be considered a violation of the DMCA? *grin*

  • by MrBlic (27241) * on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @05:34PM (#8592266) Homepage

    My web pages don't have any zip code or latitude / longitude information on them... and sure enough they don't show up in any local.google.com search.

    What exactly does it look for on a page to know where the business is?

    Should I put my entire address on every page? on just the home page? Or is a zip code in a meta tag good enough for google to know where I'm talking about.

    I really like it! Searching for pizza in my zip code shows just what I would hope.
  • US address, city & state, or zip

    Seeing as I live in Canada, and it only accepts US addresses, that's a strange definition of "local."

    At least I don't live in Europe or Asia... "Local: Get on a plane..."

  • I gotta stop putting my Postal Code (Canadian) on online forms!

    I always thought it just gave my neighbourhood. When I put it in Yahoo maps, the map I got back had the star right on my house!
  • I can see why this would be helpful for people who have just moved to a new area, or for people traveling (Is there a coffeehouse near my hotel?). I think in the longer term there will be paid ads from businesses on the results pages.

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