Reading Om Malik’s review of what makes a successful Internet company I was surprised to see Yelp as a leading example. It reminded me of the negative or less than great experiences I’ve had on the site. It seems that every time I’m on Yelp I’m sifting through information for which I have little to no context. I don’t know the people who’s opinion I’m supposed to trust. This is fine when dealing with products or books or even clothes to a certain extent. There’s more context available for each of these. In particular, quality of a product is something that anyone can determine without being to subjective. “Quality” is a fairly universal metric but what makes “good” food is far more subjective. My issue with Yelp and its ability to scale as a company, is that there’s no conditions by which to quickly contextualize each user’s taste. Leaving me with no idea if their version of what “good” is is the same as mine. This means Yelp is more of a listing of locations than a service. This leads me to my second issue; information. Via Yelp you can neither gain an understanding of a restaurant’s menu nor get a bearing on available seating. I have to seek out this information from menupages.com and opentable.com. Yelp would be wise to focus less on glitzy AR mobile features and more on adding these products as features of their service.
Since most products trend towards becoming service within an offer (think iPod device -> iPod App -> Spotify) there is a high likelihood that between Yelp, OpenTable and Menupages we’ll see their offers merging and competing further in the coming year.
Admittedly, I’m on a rant here. I should also admit that I’m being a little snobby. But I also, and I can’t imagine that my point of view is unique.