WHERE Becomes a 'Local Discovery Engine'

WHERE has upgraded and redesigned its mobile apps for RIM, Android and the iPhone. Rather than a "commodity" local search service, it has now become a "local discovery engine." A big part of the redesigned experience is new content ("guides") and personalized recommendations ("best bets").

WHERE is using several methodologies to make recommendations but the app first asks users to engage in very brief statement of preferences from a short menu of icons organized around the concept "play, eat, drink."

Another recently launched online recommendation site, Bizzy, confronted me with a much more extensive battery of questions about tastes, preferences and favorites. It went on too long in my opinion. By contrast the WHERE interaction only allowed me to specify five things or categories of interest -- too few in my opinion. The process took literally less than a minute. I think they've erred a bit too much on the side of brevity. 

Overall the new app is quite a bit more interesting and versatile than previous incarnations. I can still do all the directed local queries (i.e., specific restaurants and other local venues). I can also browse for content and suggestions. However the new categories, "guides" and "best bests," allow for discovery of information that I might not otherwise have thought about or discovered on my own in their absence.

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Guides are intended to offer ideas and inspiration. They're typically editorial lists and roundups "curated" by humans. Examples include: 

  • The ultimate San Francisco guide
  • North Beach bars
  • Girls night out in San Francisco
  • Getaways in the Bay Area

Best Bets contains a list of personalized recommendations, which as mentioned are based on preference statements but also a number of other factors, including "latent semantic indexing" according to the company. All listings and content can also be saved to lists for later reference: "favorites" and "wish lists."

WHERE is also a deals aggregator and offers local coupons and deals as part of the app. It's a fairly comprehensive mix of content and features. I was also told by Nataly Kogan, WHERE consumer experience VP, that a new social layer would be coming soon. Users are currently encouraged to sign in via Facebook Connect (of course). 

One of the best local URLs out there, WHERE has yet to exploit its website fully. I'm told that's coming too -- so that users can move between platforms, collect and save information and so on.

WHERE has shown itself to be impressively inventive and flexible, evolving in creative ways as the market has evolved. The new app is certainly an example of that.