Another day, another local business finder/recommendation service, though this one's coming from a source you might not have imagined: AT&T. It's launching AT&T Buzz, which has been in private beta for a while to the public. And, yes, it's another service named "Buzz."
That's not quite so smart, perhaps: AT&T's is likely to be dwarfed by the other two big companies busy with Buzz-named products—Yahoo's Web content finder system Buzz and Google's social network Buzz, which doesn't seem to be catching on. At least AT&T secured the URL Buzz.com. But to be honest, competing in the names space is likely to be the least of AT&T's Buzz worries, as it's the competition that's likely to make its progress tricky.
This is because AT&T Buzz is trying to offer similar services to Yelp, the newly rehashed Google Places and, to an extent, social media games like Foursquare. Essentially it's designed to combine location-based search responses with social crowd-sourced ratings of the thing you're looking for—it'll even single out if any of your friends have rated the service or commented on it. To access this higher level of socially networked data, Buzz.com actually uses the personal data that's shared over the pipeline from Facebook when you sign in over its Connect system—meaning AT&T's system can easily bolt on a social net aspect without having to really do any work of its own. It undoubtedly multiplies up the power of Buzz.com, as you're more likely to trust a review of, say, a particular restaurant from someone you know who's been there. But it does require your friends to actually engage with the service—and attaining that sort of critical mass will be tricky.
Yelp is already extremely well established in this marketspace, and maximizes user accessibility by also having smartphone apps, which do the location-based responses using precise AGPS data from the phone's current whereabouts. Google's Places is Web-based, though Google's unparalleled Net searching might means Places will get good exposure, and it's likely Google will build it into its smartphone suites sometime soon too. So is this a case of a cell phone company leaping athletically (arthritically?) into a bold new business because it's a hot topic—like Verizon's app store, perhaps—despite the fact that the path to success is obscure and the product they're offering isn't all that hot by itself? This would seem to be the case.
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