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Zvents Launches Federated Local Search

Zvents announced [1] today their launch of a new, blended search results page for local content. Now, when you do searches on their site, they’ll bring back results for various businesses, events, performances, movies, store sales and more in your local area. Here’s a screengrab of the newly-blended results page:

Zvents - New Federated Search
(click to enlarge)

You can see little icons to the right side of the listings which indicate what type of listing each result represents.

Google’s move to Universal Search in the past year and their recent move to expand out the local one-box results from a few listings to ten would indicate that user-testing is showing blended results to be a very popular item among search engine users. Zvents move to provide blended results makes them a very strong contender as a provider for local search and content technology. As Greg Sterling mentions [2], Zvents is a provider for syndicated content for third parties like newspapers, and they’re clearly positioning themselves as a potential backend for other local content sites wanting to have functionality similar to Google’s.

From trying out Zvents’ new functionality, I think the overall concept is strong although it may require further refinement on the user-experience end. The dilemma for the site is that users who are requesting a particular type of content will want to be able to easily absorb the specific results they’re looking for. I did a search for “concerts” in San Francisco, and as a user I’d be less impressed when restaurants and venues are returned, if there aren’t concerts happening at them.

It’s true that a user looking for a concert or other event might also then be interested in restaurants in the immediate area or other cool things to see and do, but the perception of relevance for what the user requests must be very high, first and foremost. It may be that Zvents will need to rearrange their results listings in order to improve this perception — have precisely what’s requested be front and center while ancillary content be moved to sidebars or below the main listings. Blended results are dependent upon the context of the search in order to be perceived as relevant.

Still, much of search blending and local search results presentation is still in a very experimental stage throughout the industry, and Zvents’ moves are making them strong contenders for the long haul. Their plans [3] to launch an open-source data storage and processing platform named Hypertable on January 31st, is starting to attract a lot of attention from the IT developer demographic. The system appears to be intended to provide Google-like powers to other people, since it’s a very similar concept to Google’s own BigTable [4], which is currently only used internally by Googlers. Hypertable will allow distributed processing and storage of both structured and unstructured data, apparently at excellent performance rates.

The introduction of the federated search / blended results may make Zvents’ content more attractive to developers who could use the Zvents API [5] to increase their content’s distribution. Developments are well worth watching here.

[BTW – I’ll be speaking on the subject of Local Search & Blended Results [6] at the upcoming SMX West conference in Santa Clara.]