AmericanTowns.com is an online resource where you can find local information related to daily life in Fairfield County in Connecticut, Westchester County in New York, Staten Island New York, Northern New Jersey, Long Island New York, Detroit and some Boston suburbs. The folks at American Town Network, the parent company, have a vision to make the Internet and it’s resources local. I think they are on the right track toward building a business that can serve a very real need. Using Google, it is very easy to find many things, but how do you find out what time the local Visiting Nurses Association will be offering flu shots?
If you put a web link on your desktop (or at some point on your mobile phone menu), a mouse click will enable you to locate school calendars, local eBay auctions, information about the local government, schools and libraries, clubs and organizations, religious institutions, sports and recreation, arts and entertainment, restaurants, businesses and professionals, and more. All local. One of the most valuable services in the long term may be the Community Action Exchange, which is designed to match the community’s needs with the talents and resources available.
The ultimate power of the Internet is to transfer power to people. While the Net is making it possible to aggregate and centralize many things, it is at the same time making it possible to build bottoms up, grass roots, networks of people. Using the Net can enable people to learn from each other, help each other, and socialize with each other at a local level. AmericanTowns.com is facilitating this.
And then there is the perpetual question — what is the business model? Time will tell, but I think there is a lot of potential in the idea of facilitating "local". As WiFi makes it possible to be connected more often with more devices for more people, the local site will become more and more fundamental to people’s daily lives. As that happens, there will be more and more sponsors who want to be part of it. Not through blinking banner advertisements, but through more sophisticated sponsorships and making information about their products and services easily retrievable.