On the web first there was Yahoo! – the portal to everything. It was a directory of websites. Users navigated from page to page to find what they were looking for. Once Google emerged and popularized search, the portal days were over. Google’s insight was that there was enough data captured in the form of webpages, where a product could intelligently deliver the user the right answer based on a broad query. All that effort on the part of the user was unnecessary.
Today we are in the portal days for mobile + local. Be it a mobile app or a website, consumers open the app and narrow down their choices until they’ve found what they’re looking for. On Google Maps, Yelp, FourSquare, Facebook, or any number of location-based services, the consumer browses and clicks through a location-based directory.
What could be as disruptive to mobile as Google was to the web? The closest analogy to the transition from Yahoo! to Google for mobile is opening a phone, speaking a few words, and immediately getting a set of the most relevant search results, contextual to where the consumer is.
That’s why voice search is so important. There will be a new type of mobile discovery that will feel as natural as typing a keyword into a search box. Or there might be something completely different and not search driven. The early battles lines are drawn but there’s a long road ahead.
Here’s a fascinating article (and long) about Siri. The combination of the vision of Siri and the iPhone is pretty perfect in terms of creating the Google of Local.