Yahoo has given its local service a facelift -- but instead of looking younger, this site looks older and wiser.
The Web giant rolled out a search page last week at the address that once hosted its city guides (local.yahoo.com). The new Yahoo Local enables you to look for a business or service by typing in a business description and a street address, Zip code or just a city name.
It will plot matching listings on a map and let you refine them by distance or by how well users have rated them; you can also click "search nearby" and ask to see parking garages, ATMs and various landmarks on the same map.
Random tests for eateries in the Washington area, however, suggested that Yahoo isn't pulling up all the restaurants. Yahoo Local general manager Paul Levine acknowledged some challenges.
"We bring in data from other providers, and sometimes they aren't as comprehensive as we'd like," he said. "And the U.S. economy is so dynamic, there are always new businesses opening and others closing. It's tough to keep track."
Levine said Yahoo Local is in trial form and will get smarter over time as more people use it and submit ratings. So far, Yahoo is the only major search engine to let users rate local businesses.
Those ratings, along with relevancy to a user's query and distance from a search address, factor into Yahoo's formula for determining the order in which businesses are listed. People can also rearrange listings by distance alone or in alphabetical order.
Ads in the service appear under a "sponsor results" label; those listings are provided by Yahoo's search advertising division, Overture.
Yahoo has tough competition in this attempt to reel in local advertisers; Google released a similar service in trial form in March. And last week, Switchboard.com added its own new local-search options, including a downloadable toolbar for Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser that allows quick access to business listings, maps and Web searches.
Hue the Day You Were Born
A Web site wants to color your horoscope, based on the whimsical notion that everyone's birthday should have a special color that reflects personal identity. The concept and the Colorstrology.com Web site were concocted by astrologer Michele Bernhardt in tandem with Pantone Inc., a Carlstadt, N.J., firm that does color identification for the design and fashion industries.
"Colorstrology uses astrology and numerology to identify a color for each day of the year," explained Lisa Herbert, Pantone's executive vice president. Asked how Pantone came up with its formula linking each color to a day of the year, she said it "had to do with the numerical vibrations of astrology."
Yes, well, now you can find your own astrologically significant color by going to this site and clicking on the month and day you were born. The site also lets people send free electronic greeting cards showing friends their personal colors. And, of course, it will try to sell you gifts relating to yours.
MSN Sends a New Message
Using Microsoft's instant messaging service could get a lot easier. A new Web interface -- like the Web-based versions of America Online and Yahoo's messaging services -- lets people chat without installing Microsoft's regular IM software. The new MSN Web Messenger's test status, however, comes with limits on how many people can log on to it; you may have to try a few times before you can access it.
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