GeoIP lookup is the ability to determine the physical location of an internet user from virtual clues: IP addresses, routing information, and so on. It’s great if you want to provide a more customized, localized version of your service.
Years ago, you were lucky to get the same city, or neighbouring city. In fact, if you check your location with the Geo IP Tool right now, you’re likely to see that it’s off by quite a bit. For example, it’s telling me that I’m in a city about 60 kilometres away.
However, I had a creepy experience the other day on where.com. Where.com pinpointed my location to my exact neighborhood:
In fact, the address it provides – without me giving the site ANY information, OR asking me if it could use my location – was just a few houses down the street.
What does it do
Instant personalization takes your friends to the web with you. All the reviews and activities that your connections on Facebook have engaged in now become part of the website you’re visiting. So for TripAdvisor, I can see that my friends have recently reviewed a hotel, where my friends most popular destinations are, and so on. I can also see cities that my friends have visited – or pinned. It’s very cool, very social, very relevant, very interesting.
Google vs Facebook is like the cold war: USA vs USSR. I feel like a small African nation in the 70s … which do I choose to align to?
TripAdvisor is making a determination here – very publicly – that Facebook poses less of a challenge to their business model than Google. (Make no mistake … Facebook poses plenty of business challenges to plenty of sites, TripAdvisor included!) I think they’ve made the right call, simply because Google is much closer to centralizing all the features of the purchase decision all in one place, as Bing has recently done in some verticals:
search (find products/services))
comparison (compare products/services)
completion (purchase products/services)
But this is not an easy call. There are two giants here fighting over the future of the web. Just as in the cold-war world … most companies will need to align in some way, shape, or form. Few will remain completely independent.
Google is trying to own the way we organize and find information – all information.
Facebook is trying to own the way we connect to and communicate with people – all people.
Obviously there is increasingly violent convergence between these two imperatives …
Google’s ambitions impinge on vertical sites like TripAdvisor (and many other sites, like that of my company, Canpages) who, guess what, want to also help people find stuff.
Facebook’s ambitions provide an option for sites that Google is squeezing to provide a different, more social, more contextualized, more personal, and potentially more relevant user experience.
The algorithm versus the social graph
Which will win? The cold calculating machines of Google, adding up links and tags and a myriad of other factors and arriving at a calculated relevance score for any given query? The implicit and explicit advice of my social circle?
Everyone who follows tech and web news today knows that local is the hottest battleground right now. It’s one that I’m intimately engaged in as part of Canpages, one of the leading local search sites in Canada.
The battle just turned up a few degrees.
Today Yahoo! announced their new local focus “neighborhood mix”, now in beta … a combination of local news, events, and – you guessed it – deals. That’s following hot on the heels of Groupon, the poster child for local commerce deals, which recently turned down a $6B takeover deal from Google. And Google of course just announced Hotpot recently, a recommendation engine to add to Places, Google’s hyper-local search/commerce engine.
I haven’t even mentioned Yelp, or Facebook Places, or the entire location-based networks such as FourSquare and Gowalla, or Bing Local. But that’s not what made the battle hotter.
TripAdvisor is the company that turned up the temperature.
TripAdvisor, of course, is the company you turn to in order to find out if the hotel or restaurant you’re going to is any good. They have hundreds of thousands of reviews, most from ordinary people who have gone to the location and reported their findings. I never pick a hotel without checking TripAdvisor first.
Befitting its status as a search engine, Google has always provided easy access to TripAdvisor reviews, ranking them high in search engine result pages (SERPs). But as a local destination and review engine in its own right, Google is not neutral anymore. It’s not even, really, a frenemy. The coopetition is now pretty much competition. And TripAdvisor has decided to stop feeding the troll.
Google Places works by aggregating web content about a location in order to present a searcher as complete a picture as possible (with some restrictions, as they don’t work with Facebook or – now – with TripAdvisor). They’ve had problems before as content providers and creators such as Yelp have felt they are getting cheated as Google essentially uses their content for free. That’s always been the case, of course, but now with Google Places, users may not ever feel the need to click through to any of the other sites to get a fuller picture. Places, in other words, pushes Google over the line from partner and source to direct competition.
This is a devil’s deal, of course: you’re protecting your interests but also harming them. While protecting their content, TripAdvisor is risking their traffic. They can probably do it – their brand is strong, and their direct-in traffic and repeat traffic is probably also strong.
The question is: will more content providers start doing this as well?