Ah technology, it’s a never ending race to the top. As soon as you reach the front of the pack your competition sets their goals to take you down. As far as ratings and review apps go, Yelp is currently in the lead with Foursquare and Facebook just waiting for it to trip.
Foursquare has made their intentions to take down Yelp loud and clear. They took on millions of dollars in debt to become a better review platform and have consistently adjusted their app to mimic Yelp’s.
Now, according to CNET, Facebook is updating their Android app to let users check-in, like and write reviews in their quest to transform from social network into a hub for researching for companies and reading opinions on them from their friends. It makes sense that Facebook would try to pull check-ins from Foursquare: why would users post Foursquare check-ins to Facebook when they can check-in, add photos, tag others and update their status in one foul swoop? But does Facebook actually have a shot at pulling from Yelp?
The success of these apps are based on long-term use. If Little Joey’s Pizza only has one review – and it’s a glowing 5 star review from user lil_joey28 – it won’t hold the same level of credibility as Sal’s Pizza across the street with 50 reviews. As Yelp gets older, more users will write start writing reviews and current users will review more places. The larger sample size makes the reviews more accurate and the site more reliable.
This may all seem very basic, but it’s the fatal flaw of Facebook or Foursquare or whatever the next big review app is. Users who have put time and effort into writing reviews for restaurants, stores and venues don’t want to start fresh with the latest new trend. They’ve worked hard to build up their reputation and credibility as reviewers.
Top reviewers are the life bread of recommendation sites, and they choose their platforms based on more than web usability. Yelp provides meet ups and exclusive events that help curb the cost of running a blog. Yelpers may want to write more reviews of but can’t afford to eat out every night, so the app helps them out. UrbanSpoon links back to blogs of reviewers, so a strong presence on that site can build traffic and readership. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship between the blogger and website. Facebook and Foursquare would have to create incentives that are just as good if not better than these perks to drive reviewers to their sites.
Unless Yelp stops offering Elite perks and/or ruins their interface, Facebook and Foursquare can’t expect users to give up their status and jump on another bandwagon. Those who do make the change will be the fair-weather users, people who don’t eat out often or don’t write a lot of reviews. Foursquare and Facebook might grow, but not with quality critics.