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Yahoo puts local content on the map

The Internet portal continues its Internet search expansion by delivering information on local points of interest, such as restaurants, hotels and parks, via its online map system.

Internet portal Yahoo said Tuesday that it is launching a new service aimed at providing localized content to Web search users via its online map system.

The SmartView service lets surfers use Yahoo Maps to view information on local points of interest, such as restaurants, hotels, parks, automatic teller machines and post offices. Along with highlighted maps, Yahoo gives details about locations, including addresses and phone numbers, pricing, Web sites and driving directions. Yahoo said it also plans to incorporate a user rating system for hotels listed on the maps.

Representatives at the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company said businesses and other locations named on its maps would be drawn from Yahoo's "Yellow Pages" section and other areas of the site, such as its travel and leisure listings. Yahoo does not plan to charge companies to be shown on the maps, but the portal does place sponsored links produced via its Overture commercial listings on other parts of the local Web pages.

A quick test of local maps for the Boston area indicated that Yahoo has already added a large number of businesses--including gas stations, banks and hospitals--to its system. If visitors click on a search tool linked to each listing, SmartView provides general Web results for the highlighted location. While Yahoo representatives declined to speculate what sort of information could be added to the map pages in the future, they indicated that the company has plans to continue to build out the system and provide even more detailed resources.

The move to lure Internet traffic with local results is the latest in a string of maneuvers by Yahoo meant to improve the company's position in the search engine market, where it is looking to compete more closely with segment leader Google. Last week, Yahoo launched its Content Acquisition Program, designed to index billions of documents contained in public databases commonly inaccessible to search engines--or what's called the invisible, or deep, Web.

Last month, Yahoo dropped Google as the default search technology provider for its United States-based sites, as the portal continued to increase emphasis on its own capabilities. Some of these features come from an array of recently acquired companies, such as Inktomi and commercial search provider Overture Services. Yahoo also owns AltaVista and the Web search technology of Fast Search and Transfer.

Yahoo's long-term goal is to regain its former distinction as the Web's dominant search engine, a mantle it enjoyed before moving further into content aggregation during the late 1990s. The company is hoping to grow its profits through the commercial search market, which has increasingly accounted for a more significant piece of Yahoo's revenue.