loladex.JPGA local search engine for business listings launches this morning, but with a twist: It’s located entirely on social networks, starting with Facebook. Called Loladex, the new engine has about 16 million business entries, and it hopes people will offer their opinion on them.

At the moment, Loladex includes only bare-bones business listings that are essentially just a name and address, licensed from another company called Localeze, along with a smattering of reviews from content sites like the Washingtonian. But Loladex isn’t asking its users to add in all the details; instead, it just wants them to vote with simple thumbs up or down button.

With enough friends participating, you’ll be find out the important hang-out spots for your social group, and see how they’re rated. If you don’t have a lot of friends voting on entries (likely to be the case in the short-run), the site also  lets you view ratings based on college, group, or network, as well as friends more than one degree away, LinkedIn-style.

Of course, there’s already a ton of local content out there, from your basic Yellow Pages listings to more Internet-savvy companies like CitySearch and Yelp.

The question, to me, is whether it’s worth it to try to move every social service to Facebook and its ilk, simply to take advantage of social connections. Out of the dozens of companies that have tried to build up sites based on user contributions, the few that became successful did it by aggregating enough information to make them regular destinations for Internet users. Loladex, with its simple up/down vote mechanism, isn’t trying to compete with companies like Yelp; instead, it’s appealing to a desire for convenience and speed. It looks useful, but I’m skeptical there’s enough substance to lure people away from their favorite review sites, which take longer to navigate but contain a great deal more useful information.

Co-founder Dan Cooper told me that in time Loladex will expand its focus to emphasize reviews more, but that looks to be a ways off, after the company launches on more social networks and for more locations this summer. In the meantime, it would be relatively simple for any of its competitors to add the same social network voting abilities to their own toolbox (although that’s no guarantee that they will).

Loladex, based in northern Virginia, has bootstrapped itself so far. The company is looking for some angel investors to get through the next half year or so.

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