Fwix Takes On GeoTagging The Web; Future of Location With CEO Darian Shirazi

August 19, 2011

10:52 am

With the rise of mobile devices, mainly smartphones, location-based services have been tied to just about every application we use these days. Geolocation is used to personalize your experience, or, in some cases, offer additional services to you. The geolocation data enables applications to determine local points of interest, as well as other relevant location-based information. Taking it to a new level, San Francisco-based startup Fwix is taking on an interesting endeavour by geotagging the web with location information.

What does this mean exactly? It means that Fwix is associating geolocation data with content on the web. For example, this article you are currently reading is about a San Francisco-based startup named Fwix, so it could be geotagged with the location of San Francisco. Once it’s geotagged, Fwix offers an API to developers to leverage this data set and pull in content based on the location they are coming from.

We recently had a chance to talk with Fwix CEO Darian Shirazi as we look to find out more about his company’s geotagging efforts and more importantly, poll him on the future of geolocation.

Tech Cocktail (TC): Why do you feel geotagging content on the web is useful and/or important?
Fwix CEO Darian Shirazi (DS): As mobile devices become the way people consume content, we believe that location will become more important than ever.

For the first time, we have a device that is designed to be the center-point of a person’s life and knows where we are.  We realized that the location would be equally, if not more, important than the search query itself.  In some cases, the location would be the search query. “What’s important right here?”

If we could associate all content (news, blogs, events, social media, videos, photos, etc.) on the Internet with a place or location, we could deliver incredibly relevant search results given a user’s location.  Search is becoming as much about where you are located as what you want to search for. We found that Google had little to no solution to location use cases and that modern search as we know it would have to evolve to serve these devices.

Location is a very relevant form of determining what a user wants and being the search index behind these new devices is where we believe the billion dollar opportunity lies in this space.

By geotagging the Web, we want to redefine local search.

TC: When did you determine you were going to take on geo-tagging the entire Web with Fwix?
DS: We started in 2009 while we were in a meeting, and the question came up: “What is the future of search?”. I know that sounds somewhat cliche, as people have been asking this question since before Google was even founded. However, there’s been a change – a change we’re all well aware of – in the way in which people interact with search engines and the Internet. We came to the conclusion that as mobile devices became the dominant way people would use the Internet and increasingly continues to outsell PCs, that search needed to be altered to accommodate geo-enabled devices.

We first started off by geo-tagging news articles and content, and then we started focusing on several more types of content (blogs, events, status updates, photos, video transcriptions, etc.).

Geotagging, in general, is complex, and all online content, whether news or social media, has major challenges. While a lot of the social media content that comes from the mobile phone (tweets, photos taken from mobile, etc.) already has geo-data associated with it that we can use as inputs for our geotagging system, there is still a significant amount of social media content that lacks that associated geo-metadata.

TC: Could businesses and brands leverage your services? If so, what would be the ideal scenario?
DS: Businesses will ultimately leverage from our technology by having the capability to better geo-target their local advertisements or daily deals.

Our geotagger can identify referenced places in a story (for example, a restaurant, business, neighborhood, etc.). Publishers can then access the location data identified by the Geotagger to input into their location-targeted advertising solutions. Having this place-based knowledge (e.g., the location data provided by Geotagger) referenced within content enables advertisers to create and improve their location-targeting campaigns down to a place level.

A good example of this is the ability to target daily deals more effectively to users.  If you happen to be reading an article about the World Series, and you’re based in San Francisco and the article carries our Geotagger, we’ll be able to find the most relevant Groupon that matches the article’s content — maybe a deal to get 50% off all San Francisco Giant’s merchandise at the local sports shop or a daily deal for the local sports bar.  This level of targeting in conjunction with the massive local business model that Groupon and others have created will be the way for these daily deal services to increase sales even more.  Such level of location context targeting has really never been done before.

TC: Where do you see geo-location going in the future?
DS: Location is now a key contextual factor – whether it is via a geo-enabled mobile device or HTML5-enabled Web browser on a PC that has location-detection built in.

We have made significant progress, but we still have work to do with improving the technology and geotagging the entire Web. With our approach to geotagging the Web, we are helping to define the future of location-based relevance on the Web. The more search can understand location, the better we can understand our world.


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Frank Gruber is the cofounder, CEO and Executive Editor of Tech.Co (formerly Tech Cocktail). He is the author of the book, Startup Mixology, Tech Cocktail’s Guide to Building, Growing, and Celebrating Startup Success. He is also a startup advisor and investor to startups.

Find Frank Gruber online and follow him on Twitter at @FrankGruber.

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