A local search engine just launched on Facebook. It is called Loladex and you can’t do searches on its Website, only on Facebook. That is because it taps into your friends’ recommendations to rank results.
The underlying search engine is based on 16 million local business listings, and is licensed from Localeze. It also brings in restaurant information from OpenTable. Loladex adds a voting and notification layer on top of that, allowing you and your social network to vote results up and down or ask each other for advice.
Founder and CEO Laurence Hooper, an AOL refugee who worked in the Yellow Pages, search, and digital city group there, explains how Loladex works when you search for a local business:
If your friends have been there before, you will see recommendations they have made. If they have not, you can request recommendations from your friends. It sends a notification via Facebook. Then that recommendation will be available to all their friends.
In this way, Loladex hopes to create a customized search engine for just you and your friends. For each result, it tells you if your friends have rated it up or down, if anyone two degrees away from you have rated it (friends of friends, aka “My Other Sources”) , or if anyone in Loladex at all has rated it (aka, “Other Loladex Sources”). Anytime someone rates something, they can also leave a comment. It is a more refined Yelp, in that people you know have more influence on results than people you don’t.
Like all Facebook apps, Loladex will only become useful once a lot of people adopt it and start rating things. It only works the way it is intended if all your friends add the application (otherwise it just gives the default Localeze results). Given all the other local search engines and rating sites out there, it is going to be an uphill battle. But if social search is going to work, it has a better chance as an app inside an already existing social network where people’s friends are already hanging out. (Loladex will release apps for more social networks besides Facebook in the summer).
Loladex has two employees: Hooper and another ex-AOLer, Dan Goodman. It is funded with $350,000 of Hooper’s own money.