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Doing local search through IM via Poynt

Multiplied Media offers free local search through Microsoft Live Messenger or AIM.

A Canadian start-up is offering a way to do local searches from within AIM or Live Messenger through a free service called Poynt.

Multipled Media's Poynt service lets you search for local businesses and view listings on a map all within the IM window. Last week, the company added the ability to search for movie listings and watch trailers.

Poynt displays local business listings on a map in Windows Live Messenger and AIM. Multiplied Media

It wasn't immediately obvious to me why I would want to do a local search in IM rather than toggle over to a Web browser, and an analyst agreed with me to some extent.

"It addresses a big audience that's using IM and has an instant-messaging window open all the time," said Greg Sterling of Sterling Market Intelligence. "It involves a little bit of a behavior change because people aren't used to doing that through an IM window, but there's an interesting opportunity."

But we both see a lot of potential for Poynt on mobile devices, and toward that end, the company is working to enable it on BlackBerry devices in mid-2008, according to John Lowe, chief executive of Multipled Media. On mobile devices the service will use GPS (Global Positioning System) to set your location.

I gave it a spin on my computer, locating Poynt as a contact on my AIM and Live Messenger services. Once you start communicating with Poynt there are some easy-to-follow commands for using the service. You set your location using a landmark, address, city, or ZIP code.

Then you can choose SuperPages in the U.S. and Yellow Pages in Canada and search by store name or store type, or movies to see current films by theater, genre, or title. You can also see show times, cast listings, and synopsis and search for movies playing on specific dates.

The listings can be displayed on a map that opens up in an adjacent interactive window in Live Messenger (although for some reason that feature wouldn't work for me) or in a separate browser window for AIM.

Multiplied Media aims to make money off sponsored listings and a revenue share from transactions, such as buying tickets online.

The company is working on an Apple widget for the Mac and functionality on the iPhone, as well as something for Facebook. Multiplied Media also plans to add user reviews, possibly through a partnership with a provider like Yelp, Lowe said.

Despite an interoperability agreement between Microsoft's and Yahoo's IM services, the Poynt service won't work on Yahoo Messenger until the company specifically develops the capability. However, both iChat and Gmail use the AIM functionality and so Poynt is available through those interfaces, the company said.