Verizon is formally launching an ad-supported free directory assistance/voice search product in the US called 1-800-THE-INFO. It joins an increasingly crowded field that already features Google, Microsoft, and AT&T, among others. As I said yesterday in my post about the launch of a new voice search offering from ChaCha, most consumers are still unaware of the various free directory assistance/voice search services, so the market is pretty wide open.
The new Verizon service, which competes with its own paid 411, offers the ability to search by business name or category and refine by location (e.g., neighborhood, landmark). There are some other capabilities as well. In the restaurants category, for example, one can also refine by cuisine type. Results can be received via voice or SMS.
Directory assistance usage is migrating to mobile and so these free services are effectively a form of voice-based local search (in most cases). In addition to the new Verizon offering, the competitors in this segment now include:
–Jingle Networks’ 1-800-Free-411 (the category leader) –GOOG411 (from you know who) –1-800-Call-411 (Tellme powered Microsoft offering) –1-800-Yellowpages (AT&T) –1-800-2ChaCha (just launched yesterday)
The ChaCha service is the broadest of the group, providing the ability to ask any question and get a text back with the answer. The other services extend the 411 metaphor into new areas as more rigid DA evolves into true voice search.
What’s important to note about these services is that they’re device and platform independent so they offer the broadest entry point for mobile search to consumers today. There are roughly 250 million mobile users in the US market.