In a guest post from late last week on VentureBeat, entrepreneur Mark Goldenson says the following:
Wikipedia has destroyed the paper encyclopedia without hiring one sales agent. Alexander Bell couldn’t have foreseen that people would spend millions of hours writing 8,000 words about the Undertaker for free. While Wikipedia is great for general information, it includes almost none of the business directory information that is more valuable. Yelp, YP.com, and CitySearch offer some basic details or user editing, but either focus on reviews or don’t have deep details.
- Yellowikis (which has been around now for years but not gotten lots of traction)
In addition Yahoo! Local and Google Maps have for some time allowed users to edit and enhance listings, so they would fall on this list as well for purposes of this conversation.
Goldenson proposes a startup “ShopStop” to realize his vision of a wiki-directory. He says, “Executed well, ShopStop could kill the yellow pages for good.” Beyond the fact that this statement is simplistic and inaccurate, Goldenson fails to address the central challenge with his model and answer the question: what incentive would consumers have to populate a wiki-directory?
In addition, the “brands” in the local space, Yelp, Citysearch, etc., would not be supplanted by a wiki-directory. Only over a several-year time frame might such a project gain sufficient momentum and exposure to be of value to consumers (via search chiefly). And what about the business model? Low cost structure and geotargeted ads from networks? Enhanced features/services for SMBs who claim their listings? That’s Brownbook. (Insert familiar discussion re SMBs and self-service here.)
Indeed, Brownbook has some good traction but it’s seen by many as an SEO vehicle. Bizwiki is new and Yellowikis has failed to really take off, at least in the West. Beyond the fact that he seems to be unaware of these efforts, Goldenson’s perspective makes logical sense from an abstract point of view. But in reality it’s a much more complicated and difficult proposition.
Update: I neglected to mention the recently launched WikiCity as well.