Google today introduced upgrades to Google Local, taken together they point to some interesting trends in Google’s approach to this market.
First, Google has integrated its broadly acclaimed Google Maps application, not a surprising move. Second, and more interestingly, Google has incoporated reviews. But unlike Yahoo, which allows for users to submit reviews at the point of search, Google crawls the web for reviews which are already extant, then rolls them into its results. Users cannot add their own reviews on the spot.
This is an important distinction, and yet another declaration of how Google differs from its competitors, in particular Yahoo. I’ve written about this here and here (and a lot of other places). Blogger aside (and there’s plenty to say about the limitations of that platform), Google has always been uncomfortable with user created content, at least on its main site. While sites like Amazon, eBay, and Yahoo are full bore participants in the architecture of participation (AOP), Google prefers to lay an algorithm between user created content and its own search service. It’s still AOP, but it’s AOP once removed.
Why am I on about this? Well, Yahoo’s approach allows merchants to join the AOP party, and start paying for listings, for example. Google’s approach – at least so far – eschews this potential revenue stream. Again, Google seems to be avoiding the deeper media play.
This is not a criticism, per se, just an observation. The new Google Local also scans the web for other useful information such as prices, hours of operation, and so on. On first blush, the new service looks greatly improved. But I wonder if the approach – of filtering the web rather than engaging an AOP based platform – will really work for users. We’ll see. It’s great that there are such distinct approaches to the same market – it means we’ll all learn more, more quickly.