Canpages buys into social networking with GigPark

Canpages Inc., a Canadian local search firm and director competitor to the Yellow Pages Group, has acquired GigPark Inc., a Toronto-based site that helps people find local businesses based on recommendations from friends.

Both sides are excited about the new deal, which will integrate GigPark’s social networking platform and user recommendations with the Canpages online search directory. “We are pretty ecstatic about the many ways we can add that social recommendation layer to pretty much everything we do,” said Oliver Vincent, president and CEO of Canpages.

Canpages will become the first search firm to incorporate social networking, according to Vincent. “The ability to integrate the social recommendations into your existing social networks and connecting that to a local search platform is something that has not been done yet, and especially not in Canada,” he said.

While there are a lot of details to iron out, Vincent expects full integration before the end of this year. GigPark already has tens of thousands of reviews, so there is a lot of content we are going to merge right away, he said. sees about 3.5 million unique visitors each month. The number of GigPark users in Canada has not been disclosed.

The aquisition may open doors to new advertising models, but Canpages is not going to push advertising in users’ faces, according to Vincent. “We aren’t doing that today and aren’t going to start doing that with GigPark,” he said.

Canpages plans to keep the GigPark site as-is.

GigPark acts like a social networking site, providing recommendations from people you already know and have added to your network. This sets the site apart from other online reviews and recommendations that come from strangers and sources you may not trust.

Even if you can distinguish what’s genuine and what’s not, you don’t know the context of the review or who made it, Vincent pointed out. “When the review is made by somebody you know, from your social network, suddenly the review and the recommendation is worth a thousand times more for you,” he said.

Canpages has been looking to add recommendations to its platform for some time, according to Vincent, and set its sight on GigPark for several reasons. “We like their vision on how you can integrate recommendations on a social level, but also the technology they developed that could be integrated into Canpages current technology,” he said.

GigPark’s ability to integrate with other social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, was another selling point. “When we added the fact that the founders of the company would stay with us after the acquisition, we realized we had the premises of a very good deal,” said Vincent.

Co-founders Noah Godfrey and Pema Hegan will join the Canpages along with Paul Dowman, GigPark’s director of technology. Godfrey and Hegan launched GigPark to the public in early 2008 during a “transitional stage” in their lives, according to Godfrey.

“You get to that stage where you grow up and you need to hire a bunch of service providers because you are going through all these different things in life. Whether it’s getting married, having kids, buying a house, selling a house, renovating a house, finding a new job – you need to find a whole new set of people you need to rely on,” said Godfrey.

The best place to get these people is through recommendations from friends, but there was nothing online to facilitate that, he said.

The decision to join Canpages was “a no-brainer,” said Godfrey. “The opportunity came by for us to get on board with a company that is clearly heading in the right direction and doing it very quickly and has some phenomenal scale and already great user experience for search and a team that blew us away.”

Godfrey said his immediate focus at Canpages will be expanding GigPark and integrating it into “We feel there is an enormous opportunity here to offer an even better user experience, one unmatched by anyone else out there,” he said.

Based in Vancouver, Canpages provides its national directory for local business and residential searches online and in print. Mobile phone users can perform free Canpages searches by text messaging 898411 anywhere in Canada or 604411 in the Greater Vancouver Area. Canpages apps are also available for iPhone and Blackberry users.

GigPark does not have any mobile apps available at this time.

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