iBegin.com, the user-powered local search engine, has officially launched. I had the pleasure of checking out the beta this week and found it to be put together well and with its users as a top priority. iBegin now open to the public in Toronto with plans of rolling out to other cities soon.
iBegin offers a local search for restaurant, hotels, bar/clubs, retails, attractions, residence and other/miscellaneous locations at the city level leveraging the components of the Web 2.0 movement by empowering users to generate content with images. iBegin provides an Ajax driven interface for seamless addition of items that can then be tagged added to favorites and reviewed. In addition iBegin plots each item on a map with the optional driving directions. To help motivate users to contribute to the community iBegin offers users a 'badge' incentive program which not really explained clearly on the web site but leave it to users as a riddle to figure out. You can see an example of the 'badge' program by going here. Spam may also be a problem with this much user generated content but community policing by users has been implemented to help combat the problem.
iBegin is a blend of local city search with the extraordinary amount of user generated content. I think it has the potential to be an extremely good resource for a city resource however it only as good as the buy-in by its users. Buy-in could take some time since not everyone in a specific city is going to and contribute. However, I think the developers of iBegin have already realized its biggest obstacle which is why they have made it easy to import contacts and send invitations to iBegin. Not to mention the 'badge' program is another attempt to keep users interested in contributing. I applaud the creativity but I am not sure if it will be enough to keep users interested in contributing. I guess we will find out.
I would recommend checking out this post with lists things that iBegin does right and giving iBegin.com Toronto to see the new city search for yourself.