The startup aims to mix it up with Yahoo, Yelp and CitySearch in the competitive local search market.
Grayboxx is out of beta, launching a nationwide local search service
Jan. 16 that recommends and ranks businesses through an algorithm
rather than just through user-generated reviews, which is the modus
operandi for competing services.
Local search services such as Yahoo Local, IAC's
CitySearch or Yelp generate a list of businesses and let users write
reviews to rank them. While these user-generated reviews provide useful
information, there is a gap between the number of available reviews and
the number of local businesses in the
To fill this void, Grayboxx uses a technology system
called PreferenceScore to tell users which businesses are most popular
with their neighbors, founder Bob Chandra told eWEEK.
When people buy goods or make reservations at a
restaurant, they indicate their interest in local businesses via a
name, phone number, street address or city. These references, also
known as implicit endorsements, are references people make to
businesses in user data sources such as an e-mail calendar or cell
phone address book.
Grayboxx gets this data from a variety of
third-party vendors that access it, but it does not acquire, track or
keep any personally identifiable information about its users, relying
instead on the frequency with which the business information is
PreferenceScore tallies this data and uses it in
congress with user-contributed reviews, culled from third parties or
created directly on Grayboxx. Instead of relying solely on results from
one of the traditional local services that offer a sprinkling of
user-generated reviews, a search on Grayboxx yields dozens of ranked
businesses, each of which often has anywhere from five to 100
With this approach, grayboxx.com can offer 185 million business rankings and recommendations in more than 4,000 Yellow Pages categories across the country.
Chandra said he came up with the idea for Grayboxx after becoming frustrated looking for a cobbler in
, to repair a boot. Yahoo Local returned more than 500
results in no particular order, making it difficult for him to
make a decision.
He realized with Yahoo Local that there are plenty of
reviews for certain categories such as restaurants, but not so much
about plumbers, patio furniture stores and the thousands of other
businesses people want recommendations for but don't take time to write
That disappointing discovery fueled PreferenceScore, which Chandra expects will do for local search what Google's PageRank site reputation ranking system does for top-line search.
Google changes its search algorithm regularly,
causing tectonic shifts in PageRank scores, driving search engine
marketers batty in the process. Grayboxx will also update
PreferenceScore often to keep businesses from "gaming" the system to
improve their scores.
At launch, Grayboxx has no advertising on its search
site, perhaps a welcome breath of fresh air from the search engines of
Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Ask.com.
However, Chandra said Grayboxx will incorporate paid
advertising over time to generate revenue. These could be
specially denoted results on a sidebar or letting businesses pay for
more complete profiles.
Grayboxx is going national from beta at a time when
local search is expected to enjoy a boom in 2008, according to research
released from The Kelsey Group on Jan. 10.
Merchants will be able to take part in the consumer
review process so they can have a voice in the feedback about their
businesses, as user-generated reviews increasingly come to the fore.
tap are increases in local search inventory, more search through
specialized devices and greater interest in local automotive and real
estate markets, the research firm said.