Google needs to get with the program

Well, it happened again. I was going to write a blog post about the new Google Maps feature that lets users write reviews of businesses, but I left it too late and had to go off to a dinner thing, and by the time I got back that bugger Scott Karp had said the exact same thing that I was going to. I swear, if it isn’t him doing that then it’s Mike Masnick from Techdirt.com. If they weren’t such nice guys I would push them in front of a bus or something.

In any case, the point is well made by Scott: adding user reviews to Google Maps makes sense from a certain standpoint, since it adds value to the map info and adds another layer of content to (hopefully) provide stickiness. But it is also lacking any kind of social element, which is something that Yelp.com — or a similar Toronto service called OurFaves.com, which was started by my friend Candice Faktor — have in spades.

Why would someone want to contribute a review to Google Maps when there’s no community? And how is anyone supposed to judge the believability of the review when there’s no social context the way there is with Yelp and OurFaves.com? Someone said they didn’t like the “If you build it, they will come” mentality — they much preferred the “if they come, you should build it” approach.

Google seems to be leaning more towards the former than the latter, and Scott is right — building community and using social tools is not something they have proven to be particularly good at.

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About mathewi

I'm the chief digital writer at the Columbia Journalism Review in New York, and a former writer for Fortune magazine and the Globe and Mail newspaper.

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