New search engine Goby is launching Tuesday night, and unlike Microsoft's Bing, or Hunch, Goby really is a "decision engine"--enabling users to very quickly find something to do nearby or in a far away place.
Its task-centric search tool is comprised of three boxes--a "what," "where," and "when." You just tell it what you want to do and where you want to do it, as well as some general date (or no date at all), and it goes through its index to find you places or activities that match up with those simple parameters. Oftentimes this results in it finding events that fall during the time period you originally selected, which is a pretty neat trick for a search engine and potentially a huge time saver if you're using it for vacation or business travel search.
The tool does many things to help you fill out its three search boxes quickly, and get straight to the results. For one, it offers up suggestions as you type. You can also cruise through a nested folders of activities in its index for suggestions. In my case, it did a spot-on job at turning "tomorrow" into in real date. It also rolled "beers" into its food and drink category, along with providing other category suggestions like "beer tastings", "breweries" and "bars and pubs."
Along with helping users fill out the beginnings of a search query, it also does a decent job at letting them whittle down the results. For instance, if you want to limit the results to a specific area, you can just grab a pin from the map that sits on the right of the results page, and it filters points of interest down to that vicinity. You can also restart a search query within one or more genres just by clicking on their check boxes.
One thing it's missing though (and it's a biggie) is a way to tell you how good any of these places are. If you're used to hitting Yelp to hunt for a new place to eat, or something fun to do on the weekend, Goby doesn't offer any kind of social-rating system or tools of its own.
But it's not going to be like that forever. Goby's CEO Mark Watkins tells me that there will eventually be review links from places like Yelp, as well as mentions on places like Facebook and Twitter--something that should give results some social flavor. For now at least, you're going to have to hoof it over to Yelp, CitySearch, or some other local reviews place to get ratings and reviews for restaurants and other local businesses.
Other things on the way include a personal search history, which will let users save their queries for future searches that will show updated results based on date and index changes. The company is also working on an iPhone app that will be able to automatically fill out the "where" field based on the user's location, however this and the personal search history will not be immediately available on launch.
See also Diddit, a service that launched back in February, that helps people , as well as discover local lists made by others. There's also Yahoo-owned Upcoming, which provides local events and venues listings.
Update: It should be noted Goby can only be used in Firefox and Internet Explorer at the moment. Support for Safari and Chrome is on the way and "coming soon" according to the company.