Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO) has shed the "beta" testing phase of its Local product. Today, Yahoo! Local became official, landing in a space of prominence on the homepage. The word comes just a few days after news that the Yahoo! site is getting a makeover, and is the latest of services to move from beta into launch, though many may wonder what the big deal is.

Although shifting a beta version of a service to "official" status is often neither here nor there, watch for Yahoo! to generate further buzz around the product in the near future. A press communication I received mentioned interesting buzz generators like interactive kiosks in several large cities using Yahoo! Local, as well the possibility of local prizes for registered users of the service.

Regardless, today's word seems just the latest in a recent glut of changes to different search-oriented websites and portals in the recent past. Not long ago, (NASDAQ:AMZN) gave its newish search engine the stamp of approval by stripping off the beta tag and giving it its official launch (as well as running a user-oriented sale that used its popularity in e-commerce to drum up some additional interest).

Ask Jeeves (NASDAQ:ASKJ) recently spiffed itself up and modernized some features as well. Time Warner's (NYSE:TWX) America Online unit seems to think going back to the future is a good strategy.

It's a virtual guarantee these are not the last concerted efforts at knocking Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) off its search pedestal. Furthermore, the stakes are high in local search and advertising, as it's an area gearing up to be big business. It's no wonder the major players are eager to snap up their piece of the market.

At some point, the services will reach some degree of maturity and slow down from the current frantic pace of beta pre-launches followed by (ho-hum) official launches of products some of us have already been using, bugs and all, for months now. It's enough to wonder if maybe, soon, users will start to tune out the constant layers of fanfare and get a small dose of beta-testing burnout. To those who were already using Yahoo! Local or one of the competitive products, today's "news" seems a blip, a reminder of competitive forces -- and the search market land grab -- more than anything else.

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Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.