Geopage, previously Zoodango has just been launched after about two years of preparations, and is aiming to become the meeting place of the next generation, and to bring the experience of "walking down the block" to the internet. It is a "hyperlocal map-based service" with a "geospatial search" tool, rating oprions and a community section, which can not only help people share information, but also meet and explore the places together.
The service is based on a great idea - to show maps with "interesting" places marked, so the user can check the Zoodango map and see what is there to visit near by, how were places evaluated by other users, and what does the system predict about user's preferences. So far, the system launched in several American cities, including Seattle, San Francisco and Portland. It is still unknown what cities will be included next, and what will be the covered range of the service.
<p>Users can add places, and mark them with little icons on the map. Then they can describe and evaluate the places, so a score (based on community and personal score) appears on the map, along with the number of people who like that particular place. The system is supposed to be able to use the submitted information about places, to calculate which places the user is most likely to enjoy. An interesting thing is that the score given to places is compared to the score given to similar places, and not to the whole list of restaurants, cinemas, etc, so a 5 star ice cream stall will not appear in the same category as a luxurious hotel, but will compete with other ice cream stalls for the best rating. There's of course the community section, where people can upload videos, information and their personal maps of favorite places. The main map includes all of the marked places, and the side panel shows the list of places with their scores, so a user can immediately choose the best or the worst place and check where to go, or which area to avoid. One thing that is definitely missing so far is the possibility of using Zoodango on mobile phones. Most people feel the need to use a map and a guide to interesting places, when they are not at home, on a train, or in the middle of a foreign city, desperate to find a good cup of coffee. In those situations application like Zoodango would come in handy, but the users are limited to computers. And would anyone ask someone for directions to a internet café, just to log to Zoodango and get directions to a regular café. Another drawback is the limited number of cities, but this will probably change in the future, when more users join.</p>
The main part of the service is the map window, which is clear and absolutely normal - it looks just as a map should look like. The icons are also clear, based on popular tourist symbols - fork and knife for restaurant, masks for theatre etc. The colors are calm, and the site layout is clear, without unnecessary details.
This site is developing right now, and there are definitely some things missing, such as the mobile access, or a bigger number of locations, but hopefully this will change in the future, and Zoodango might become an interesting tool for organizing trips and meetings friends.