When Google launched Google Places, everyone saw it as a distinct threat to networks like Yelp. The reviews would be in direct competition, a fact not lost on Yelp, which had a formal syndication relationship with Google that ended in 2006. However, when Google Places launched, Yelp reviews were clearly visible:
According to Search Engine Land, Yelp was less than happy, and tesnion boiled over between Google’s John Hanke and Yelp’s Jeremy Stoppelman during the Social Currency CrunchUp event in Palo Alto California this July:
“Schonfeld baited Stoppelman and Hanke a number of times with questions about the aborted Google acquisition of Yelp, Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ remark that “Search is not where it’s at [in mobile],” as well as Google’s crawling and use of Yelp’s content on Places (though the two no longer have a formal deal). He finally succeeded when Stoppelman took some of the bait and argued that Google needs to be “smart” about “preserving the ecosystem” and balancing between its own properties (i.e., Places) and sending people to the “best place on the web for users to go,” for local content (Stoppelman was referring to Yelp of course).
Hanke countered, “We want people to find what they want. We’re going to present the best places from various sources.”… the Stoppelman-Hanke discussion reflected more general agreement about the state of local online. Both expressed the challenges of acquiring small business advertisers as well as the challenges those small businesses face with online advertising. Both discussed the explosive growth of mobile and its positive impact on the local market. And both expressed an implied or direct interest in succeeding the print yellow pages to some degree. Stoppelman said, “Yellow pages is kind of boring; matching people with local businesses is what we want to do.” Hanke opined, “Google is not the yellow pages, the web is the yellow pages.””
At this point, it is unlikely that Yelp reviews will be returning to Google Places, although a partnership with Yelp is not out of the question. Meanwhile, Yelp has legal issues of its own, according to TechCrunch – the company was hit with a class action in February over allegedly extorting companies with poor reviews:
“The plaintiff in the suit, a veterinary hospital in Long Beach, CA, is said to have requested that Yelp remove a negative review from the website, which was allegedly refused by the San Francisco startup, after which its sales representatives repeatedly contacted the hospital demanding payments of roughly $300 per month in exchange for hiding or deleting the review.”