I have to admit I find Yahoo one of the most frustrating online companies I have ever encountered. However, I also consider it the biggest innovator, and that’s the frustration. The labs division of the company produces many fantastic products and services, yet only a small percentage of these ever get air time.The latest product to come from the Silicon Valley beast is Yahoo Neighbors, a mashup between local search and social networking. Currently only available in the States, Neighbors is in effect a message board for local communities. If implemented correctly, this will provide a fantastic real time view of “the word on the street” to Yahoo searchers. I think a good description for this is “the conversation layer”.Having spent some time playing with Neighbors I have to say it’s brilliant. Its contents are categorised into sections that really matter locally, such as business recommendations, education and even restaurant reviews. While we may discuss how social networks and presence management are essential for business (and they are), often the same thinking doesn’t translate for local businesses. This is where Neighbors could potentially help. Small businesses could exploit the service in numerous ways, from basic exposure, to the creation of a “linked-in” style authority status, but at a local level.Yahoo Neighbors is pretty awesome, and the concept of the conversation layer doesn’t just apply to the larger and more web savvy businesses. This is a service that seems to bridge that gap between large and small extremely well.I just hope it’s not another bright idea that gets stifled due to lack of business support from the big Purple. Oh, and I also hope that it eventually finds its way over the pond to us!