New York empties out for Labor Day weekend, when everybody who’s anybody heads out of town in order to avoid the ridicule of New York Magazine. Over the five years I’ve been here, I’ve actually learned that these are some of the nicest times to be here in the city (this partly explains why my girlfriend and I went away last weekend). Every year at this time, a general calm falls over Manhattan as there are fewer pushy assholes roaming the streets, less competition for the nine o’clock show at the movie theater, and thinner shopping crowds to take advantage of the temporary amnesty from taxes on clothing sales.
It’s also easier to reserve tables at the restaurants that stay open through the holiday, though finding a good restaurant through Citysearch remains as frustrating as ever.I’m just going to take a brief moment out to vent a little on this dominant player in the city guides niche. It can’t just be me who notices that, with each redesign, Citysearch’s worst shortcomings just get less bad while some other area gets worse in a new way. My biggest complaint is that the site does a poor job of understanding locality; when viewing any given restaurant, it refuses to show others in the area, even though it’s perfectly capable of showing nearby theaters, bars and shops. The company could benefit greatly from aping the approach of Vindigo, which understands urban locality just about as good as any software developer ever has. Ironically, Citysearch also has a terrible search function, as it’s seemingly incapable of allowing me to continue to search only within a certain category after I’d done so once.
Lamenting that Microsoft isn’t in a certain market is like fighting all logic, but I do wish that the Redmond giant hadn’t abandoned its Sidewalk city guides to Citysearch and AOL’s tepid DigitalCity offering. There’s plenty of room for a more comprehensive and far better designed city guide, but this is a category of Web business that has never been a clear moneymaker. The best I can hope for is that the next iteration of Citysearch is less bad than its predecessors.