When Vic Gundotra, vice president of engineering at Google, unveiled Google Goggles visual search at the company's last major search event Dec. 7, somewhat lost in the news glut was his promise of letting users search from their mobile phones by using their location as a query.
Google launched this feature, called Near Me Now, Jan. 7 for Apple's iPhones (OS 3.x) and Google Android-powered devices with Version 2.0.1 or later.
Users can simply navigate to Google.com in their iPhone or Android browser, click "Near me now" once their phone recognizes their location, and search for local businesses such as restaurants, bars and florists. See it here:
And then check out this brief demo video:
Google said in a blog post Near Me Now was designed to make it easy for users to find out more about a place in their immediate vicinity.
"For example, you may want to know what other customers think about a restaurant before you go inside (see quick video below) or what they have been raving about on the menu before you order. By selecting the "Explore right here" option, you can find out more about a place "right here" with just a few clicks."
Users can also select "Browse more categories" to access Google's local search information. The fact that Google is blatantly highlighting Near Me Now's local business search and review faculties puts Yelp, UrbanSpoon and other local business search providers in a tricky spot.
I still think Google would benefit from buying the Yelp data and talent. Google could surely grow this local data organically, but it would take a few years to amass a database of any consideration.
Google doesn't want Microsoft or Yahoo coming along and snuffling up that info bank and talent in one fell swoop by buying Yelp.
Whether Near Me Now will be a hit or not (I suspect it will -- it's so easily accessible via the mobile browser), Google can't rest with Microsoft and Yahoo around.
One other thing to note: Users must first enable location on their phones to render "Near Me Now" visible. Moreover, Google noted "Explore right here" works only if the phone provides location accuracy within a city block.
Now that's local.