AOL relaunches City's Best

Faith Merino · October 13, 2010 · Short URL:

Web users can go online and vote for their favorite businesses until Nov. 30

AOL announced Wednesday that it is re-launching its City’s Best guide, a Yelp-like directory of reviews and tidbits on local bars, restaurants, and other stops.  Or rather, I should say, it isn’t really for local joints, but for the best of the best of a given city.  Cities include Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, and Washington, DC. 

Between October 13 and November 30, Web users can go online or download the City’s Best app and vote for their favorite restaurants, hangout spots, spas, salons, fashion boutiques, and more.  Categories range from the broadly defined “best spas,” “best salons,” and “best Italian food,” to the more oddly specific “best places to break up,” “best hook up bars,” and “best day drinking.”  The winners for each category will be announced December 14.

The competition will give local businesses a unique opportunity to gain visibility by encouraging patrons to vote.  AOL will be distributing City’s Best window stickers that feature QR codes that customers will be able to scan with their smartphones and vote in real-time.

Businesses up for vote were selected by AOL writers and editors based on reputation and residents’ picks.  AOL’s press release describes the goal of the program: “The selection process is fueled by the mission of City's Best, which is to bring experts and neighbors together to find and share the best in [their city].”

The City’s Best program originally got its start ten years ago, but was suspended in 2008 when AOL began to transition away from its old subscription model as a dial-up Internet service provider to an advertising-based model.  These days the company is focusing on original content and news, acquiring hyper-local news site in June 2009 for $7 million.  While the news site only operated in a handful of small towns at the time of acquisition, AOL outlined its plans to pour $50 million into Patch to make the news site a nationwide provider of news and spread it to major cities throughout the country.  In August, Patch reached its 100th site and AOL disclosed plans to reach 500 by the end of the year.

But City’s Best will be competing against more prominent and established local review sites like Yelp, which has over 38 million users and is valued between $510 million and $533 million.  Other sites like Angie’s List, Insider Pages, and scores of other local review sites will also make the space a tight squeeze for AOL.  Additionally, mobile apps and platforms like Aloqa and Foodspotting  are making it easier for smartphone owners and Web users to personalize their local interests and find local spots and offerings on the go.  How will City’s Best compete with such formidable competitors?

"Simply put, City's Best is the easiest way to find and engage with what's best in our cities," said Jon Brod, President of AOL Ventures, in the company’s press release. "Launching City's Best is an important step in AOL Local's goal of providing the highest quality, most relevant and most accessible local information, from hyper-local to major-metro markets.”

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Aloqa has solved two problems for mobile users: it takes away the need to type search terms into browsers or other mobile applications to find something, and also proactively recommends interesting local opportunities to users on the go. Wherever they are, users can simply glance at their phones and see which friends, favorite businesses, events like music concerts, local offers and other interesting places are close by, without having to launch a browser or search application. Aloqa takes into account the user’s location, preferences and social relationships to make these recommendations in real time.


“Aloqa makes mobile phones a lot more useful. As a user, it’s painful launching browsers and typing or speaking into apps. And even if doing searches becomes easier on mobile, it still doesn’t solve a bigger issue – every day all of us miss out on all kinds of opportunities we aren’t even aware of such as discovering friends who happen to be close by, or that there are concerts happening locally that we’d like, or sales and bargains all around us. Aloqa solves both the search and discovery issues by utilizing a user’s context – their location, time, preferences, and relationships – to notify them in real time of friends, places, events, and entertainment opportunities around them without delays” said Sanjeev Agrawal, CEO of Aloqa. 


About Aloqa

Aloqa is the first company to provide mobile users with context relevant alerts and notifications. Based on their location, preferences and social relationships, Aloqa users see what’s close to them without having to type anything into a browser or search application: their favorite businesses and points of interest, deals / coupons nearby, music performances and events, and Facebook friends in proximity. As they move, Aloqa refreshes automatically, so users never miss a social opportunity, event, or bargain.


PLEASE NOTE: On July 16, Aloqa ( announced  that it closed $1.5 million in series-A funding and opened a beta of its context-aware mobile application on Android handsets. Aloqa was also selected to demonstrate its application on stage at the MobileBeat Conference, hosted by VentureBeat in San Francisco, and was chosen as a "Winner of Tesla Award" -- The people's choice award at mobilebeat. 

Aloqa has also received some glowing coverage and comments in TechCrunch, ReadWriteWeb, AndroidGuys and others. Seel: