Paved With Good Intentions

CitySearch prepares to replace Sidewalk with something more concrete

It's a very different model from the content-driven sites Sidewalk originally envisioned, which were to be supported, like newspapers, by ad sales. "They realized that getting the best food critic in town didn't result in many more page views," Krasilovsky says bluntly. CitySearch itself offered a large amount of very local neighborhood information in its early incarnations but quickly moved away from that idea, he notes. "Nobody went on the Web to look at it. It wasn't drawing users in the first place, and it wasn't getting them to come back."

Still, Fryxell isn't convinced that Sidewalk, as originally conceived, was a failure. "The format we started out with was phenomenally successful," he maintains. "Usage was growing every month. We had a really great staff that created a really great thing. It's sad to think it won't be there, at least in the form we created."

An increase in the number of people who visited the site isn't necessarily a measure of success, Krasilovsky counters. Bringing people back, he contends, is the only way a city guide can thrive; most people online today only visit a city guide one or twice a month. "When it's three or four times a week," he says, "then it's successful." And promising them the capability to complete transactions may be one way to draw people back frequently--an online community of sorts.

Daniel Ruen

"It's not what we envisioned when the Web started," Krasilovsky says of the Internet's move from community to community-of-commerce. "It's a different vision."

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