Here’s the deal: Users can still write reviews. The integration with Zagat means those reviews will now be factored into the familiar score ranging from 1 to 30. Plus, expect some actual professionally written material thrown into the mix. (Imagine that.) The integration with Google+ means you’ll also see reviews written by anyone in your Circles. (The bad news is you’ll get the phantom ding from any unclosed Gchat conversations, which drives us batty.)
Presumably they’ll soon integrate with Google Maps, since Google Places is destined for the dustbin of Internet history, but it doesn’t look like they’re made the transition just yet.
Marissa Mayer explained to the New York Times that Google ultimately hopes to offer “pages for all known places” and that “Getting local search right is important, and to do that you need great reviews.” What, and providing a sounding board for all your neighborhood’s crankiest cranks doesn’t achieve that aim?
The company’s motives are also pretty obvious: According to Ms. Meyer, 20 percent of Google searches are for local information. The number on mobile: 40 percent. Losing those folks to competitors would not be a great outcome for the Goliath of search.
But a little playing around suggests Google has a ways to go before achieving first-stop restaurant reviewer status. Zagat might make for a good backbone, but there are still plenty of results that’re just user generated (and not as extensive as, let’s say, Yelp.) For example, this reporter looked up a random burek restaurant in her neighborhood and found underwhelming user-generated reviews and no overall Zagat rating. Another new hotspot (the branch campus to LIC’s Dominie’s Hoek) appeared not to have a page at all.
Back to Yelp for us for now.