Yell.com is working on a new way for consumers to find businesses, above and beyond just looking at a boring directory of listings.
The company is hoping that the searchers of tomorrow will want to float above cities, swooping in on restaurants or shops they want to know more about, before calling up information gleaned from the company's huge Yellow Pages database and sites like Wikipedia.
"Our core aim is championing small businesses", says Matthew Bottomley, director of new media product marketing, who hopes the new offering will help those who have not always had the chance to "yell" about their companies.
Working in a number of phases, users can already fly over a 3D map of central London and three other major UK cities (Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds) via the company's website. And now Yell is hoping to further that capability by launching a dedicated iPad and iPhone app - with ambitions on becoming the Facebook for businesses.
The iPad offering, which was demoed to Pocket-lint, is like a mash-up of Google Maps, Google Earth and Google Local, combined with pull information from a range of sources. It is unique, though, as Yell validates businesses on a rolling cycle, and has vouched for them in person via its hundreds of foot soldiers.
"Google is a search engine that gets you quickly to anything it's got. My aim with Yell is to make it the place that has comprehensive data", says Bottomley. "We know that people trust our data".
Users will then be able to book dinner or contact a shop directly via the app.
The app also allows users to zoom in and out, rotate the map and see exactly where everything is, as if they were actually flying over that area of the city. Although not present in the demo we were shown, Yell says it hopes to add a seamless jump from the 3D aerial maps to its street cam offering (very much like Google Street View).
The 3D maps are created by taking pictures from a plane that flies over the city. Those images are then deconstructed, turned into wireframes and then the images mapped back on top giving you the perception of a 3D image.
But it's not just about an iPad app, as previously mentioned Yell is also hoping to become the "Facebook for businesses", with companies offered a home page complete with videos of their firm.
"I would expand it slightly further than that", says Bottomley. "It's all about offering a community. One of the things we've been doing is over the last couple of months we've created 5000 video for businesses on the service to show what their businesses do", says Bottomley.
The pages would allow businesses to offer promotions, connect with customers and, of course, give more information about the companies they run.
Will they be able to beat Google? Let us know what you think...