Searching within your Vicinity

Summary:GeoSearch firm aims to take the 'world wide' out of your Web searches.

Vicinity, a California firm that helps companies sort out their geographic data, is talking to search engines about making Web searches a little more local.

Company officials said they are in talks with several search companies about integrating their GeoSearch feature into a typical search engine. The feature would allow users to search the Web geographically -- for example, looking up hotels in San Francisco or banks in Boston -- and return results that include maps and driving directions.

Driving directions included
The feature is an outgrowth of Vicinity's main business, a geocoded search service application. Using the Business Finder applications, companies can let consumers search their Web site to find the store nearest them, complete with a map and driving directions.

The application will also allow users to search by criteria, so that, for instance, the Marriott can let users look for a hotel near the airport with a pool and a spa, and Ace hardware can let users find the nearest store that carries the brand of paint they want.

Impressive customer list
Vicinity has signed an impressive list of customers for the Business Finder services, and hope to use some of that proprietary data in the GeoFinder searches, along with Yellow Pages.

A search for "hotels within 10 miles of Boston" would turn up custom pages from Marriott, and other hotel companies signed on to the service, as well as data gleaned from yellow pages and from the Internet.

While shopping on the Internet has been getting all the press lately, most people still make the vast majority of their purchases in the real world, said James McQuivey, senior analyst in online retail strategies at Forrester Research in Boston. What Vicinity's features do is offer users a choice between online and offline.

"Even those of us that buy online still need to know about the world around us on a regular basis. They have the ability to say 'We can come in and offer you the world -- literally'", he said.

Topics: Banking, E-Commerce, Software

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