Citysearch revision

Citysearch is up today with a brand new look. This may not sound particularly exciting, but it's a big deal for me. Citysearch is how I find new places to eat, which is pretty much my favorite activity in the city.

The listed updates include "brand-new profile pages, better search returns," and videos of local businesses. These changes are, for the most part, purely cosmetic. The profile pages have been reformatted with wider sidebars and larger fonts, meaning that at the end of the day, you have to scroll down farther in order to see the same amount of information. The only real addition seems to be user-specific recommendations on the side bar. It's pretty hard to see what's better about their search returns. And I really have no interest in watching videos of restaurants, which are probably just poorly-produced paid advertisements.

The only revision worth noting is that they did away with their 10-point system, in favor of a 5-star system. I'd say this is another cosmetic change, but it's not. You can no longer see the decimal rating for a place - the smallest increment is now a half of a star. In a world where most people are too nice to give a restaurant a truly bad review, the majority of reviews are going to be pretty tightly clustered in the upper half/quarter of the ratings band. This makes it all the more important for users to be able to see the decimal-level difference. And they took that away.

Citysearch is a property that I both love and hate, and these revisions don't really do much to change that. I find that it is the best repository on the web for finding places within the city. On the other hand, it is also one of the most freakishly stone-aged web site that's around. While every other information-based web site is moving full-blast into Web 2.0, Citysearch and the rest of the IAC-properties staunchly refuse to do anything remotely interesting.

For example, take a look at their "My Citysearch" feature. It's a total joke! It lets you make a bunch of lists, via an incredibly slow process of saving places and then moving them to a list. Why don't they let you search within your lists? Why don't they let you connect with lists made by your friends? For ****'s sake, couldn't they let you tag your saved locations, or at least let you use Citysearch's predefined tags?

As far as I'm concerned, IACI is missing out on a major opportunity here. With half of the web trying to cash in on social networking (I mean, they've got a NASCAR fan social network), it blows my mind that IACI isn't trying to build a massive network based on the actual habits of users. Sure, a lot of the social networking sites out there are fluff and add zero-value. But this could actually be big. One of the major channels for finding new restaurants/bars/places to see in a city is via referral from friends. If IACI could a) help customers easily and accurately record their visiting habits (buy Opentable, you fools!) and b) facilitate linkages between the different profiles, this would be a major benefit to all of their users.

Let's also take a look at their mapping functions. One of the things that I would love to be able to do would be to put in my current position, define what I'm looking for (restaurant, italian, cheap), and then see on a map what comes up within a 5-10 block radius. This is something that, to some extent, I can already do with Google maps. I cannot do this with Citysearch, even though IAC's focused on making major improvements to their Ask maps functionality.


  1. Anonymous said...

    I bet the mapping capability that you'd like to see is on the way, and Google maps is a poor substitute. I once google mapped restaurants in a particular locale, I think I even through in a key word like "thai" and it brought up everything from sports bars to a strip club, which I unfortunately dialed asking for reservations because it had an innocuous-sounding name like "Blue Room."

    A restaurant-search-savvy Citysearch might have saved me that phone call plus a last minute trip to the Cheesecake Factory.  


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