Yahoo! Local just integrated a drawing tool that lets users specify a radius within which to filter results. AskCity has a similar drawing tool (with additional shapes), and Urban Mapping has a platform that does this. On the advertiser side, AdWords and a few other SEM platforms allow marketers to specify where to serve their ads (by IP address).
We see this as a nice user-centric feature that will attract a certain set of power users in the highly competitive and quickly developing online mapping space. Different local searches carry with them different geographic relevance and implications for distance. I might be willing to travel 100 miles for a car, but I don’t want to go more than a few blocks to buy batteries. And with plumbers, roofers, landscapers and other trade services, distance hardly matters (beyond service area considerations) because they are coming to your house.
Building local/mapping products that include all these categories is a challenge because it’s difficult to apply different rules across categories for how mapping results are shown and what distance is relevant for what search (one reason why vertically segmented sites like Zillow, Trulia and AutoTrader have delivered more meaningful experiences to many users). Yahoo!’s new tool takes the guesswork out of it by allowing users to specify on the fly, literally, how far they’re willing to go.