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The closing wrap-up panel at ILM:07 included two seasoned industry observers, a high-profile technology developer, and a principal from conference co-sponsor Search Engine Strategies.

Under the encouragement of co-moderators Matt Booth and Neal Polachek, each panelist sought to summarize some of the key themes of the previous 48 hours. This kicked off with Donna Bogatin’s take:

The local opportunity is huge.

  • There are big challenges in cultivating SMBs and bringing them into the new arena. (She pointed out that many SMBs don’t yet use the new media or use it inconsistently once they have tried it.)
  • In general, there is a high degree of confusion in the space, particularly among SMBs.
  • User-generated content is changing the game, and nobody knows the new rules yet. There are big issues around control of UGC, and many SMBs don’t yet support UGC.

Although Bogatin did not use the phrase “creative anarchy” to describe the local online search space, I could tell she was THINKING it, just from the expression on her face.

Kevin Heisler, executive editor, Search Engine Watch (of SES), is in the eye of the SMB storm. He sees their struggles with online media and new technologies up close. From his perspective, a key driver for bringing more SMBs to the local online space will be easier-to-use platforms. He cited the increasing usage of open standards, open APIs and open source code as facilitators of easier-to-use platforms. Heisler is a fan of the way Google has integrated maps into search and made both accessible to a broad community of developers.

Industry veteran and mapping guru Michael Dobson volunteered that local is in the midst of a “sea change.” He spoke about the pending acquisitions of BOTH independent mapping data providers, TeleAtlas by TomTom and Navteq by Nokia. He predicted that Navteq will split into two separate businesses, one focused on maps themselves (data, images, mapping platforms) and one focused on routing (algorithms, analysis, etc.).

Dobson believes map-related UGC will be extremely important going forward (although it won’t necessarily reduce the estimated $325 million Navteq spends annually to update its maps). He also sees the emergence of techniques for “spatial management,” analogous to click management.

Dobson reminded us of the numerous unresolved issues with the ownership, rights and permissions (for access, modification, etc.) involving map data.

Christophe Maire, head of location-based experience development for Nokia, underscored the importance of mobile devices. He pointed out that 100 percent of active users of Nokia mobile devices have tried Nokia maps. The average active user accesses the Nokia map platform three times a week. Nokia’s goal is to create a compelling experience.

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