Citysearch, the popular local restaurant and shopping guide, announced a new beta version of its service tonight. The new version provides a better local search experience, with the ability to search specific neighborhoods instead of just metropolitan areas. Citysearch also announced a retooled mobile site, which lets users read and write reviews on their mobile devices, and gives them access to menus from participating restaurants. Citysearch has also implemented Facebook Connect, which allows users to log in to the site with their Facebook accounts, and the company plans to roll out OpenID support early next year.
You can fine the new beta at beta.citysearch.com.
Obviously, the restaurant review market is quite crowded right now and a lot of the updates to Citysearch were surely prompted by the success of other services like Yelp.
Besides giving the service a cleaner and more modern look, Citysearch also retooled the back-end to allow users to perform more granular searches. While the old Citysearch was only focused on 140 metropolitan areas, the new version allows you to drill down to the neighborhood level.
The new version of Citysearch puts more emphasis on the social experience by highlighting reviews from your Facebook friends while browsing through reviews. Besides making the sign-in easier for new users, Citysearch now also allows you to publish your updates on the service to your Facebook profile. On the service itself, setting up a profile has now become easier, though you can't really do too much with these profiles besides adding your profile picture.
Users can now also vote reviews up or down, which is a nice feature, given that some reviews can be blatantly biased.
BrightCove, allows for wide-screen HD playback, which is a nice upgrade from the old version.The update also puts more emphasis on professionally produced videos of local establishments. The new player, which is provided by
Early next year, Citysearch will start to allow users to upload their own photos and videos to the service. Citysearch also expects to release a native iPhone application around the same time, though for now, the updated mobile site is already quite useful.
Overall, this is a nice update to Citysearch and puts the service back on par with its competitors. In the mobile market, however, review services like Yelp or discovery services like Whrll have a head-start and it will be interesting to see if Citysearch's mobile site can compete with these.