SiliconFilter

Google Now Personalizes Its Maps with Your Rated Places and Recommendations

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Google today announced that it will start personalizing your Google Maps experience with your ratings and personalized recommendations. For now, Google is keeping these new features very subtle. Indeed, unless you look very closely, you may just overlook the new symbols. Places you have already rated will now appear with a number of dots underneath their respective symbols, corresponding to the star rating you gave them. Recommended places now feature a slight orange glow around their symbols.

Here is what the new symbols look like:

delicatessen_small_ratings_google_maps

recommendations_in_google_maps

For Google, of course, this is yet another way to get people to actually rate restaurants, shops and other local businesses in the first place. Unlike services like Yelp, few people explicitly come to Google Maps to leave reviews. The company’s place pages have increased the emphasis of reviewing businesses over time, though, and while most reviews on Google Maps and Place Pages are still aggregated from third parties, the number of native reviews seems to be going up now.

With Google Places, the company tried to get its users to leaving more reviews (and hence feed Google’s algorithms with more data), though I doubt most consumers are even aware of this service.

In an effort to bolster its recommendation services, Google also acquired Zagat earlier this year, though we haven’t seen any integration of Zagat’s ratings into Google’s own products yet.



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Google Places Hotpot Attacks Yelp and Co. with Openness

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Chances are that if you want to rate a local business, your first destination will be Yelp or a similar service. Google, however, has been steadily adding its own ratings services to its portfolio. The oddly named Google Hotpot – which is now deeply integrated into Google Places – is Google’s most direct Yelp competitor. Starting today, Google Places users will get better access to their rating there, as well as the ability to import any GeoRSS feed from other services like Foursquare to their Hotpot/Google Places profile. In addition, users can also grab a feed of their Google Places rating and import it elsewhere. While I can’t think of a service that actually could make good use of these feeds right now, chances are we will see other services that will allow users to import that data soon.

Given that GeoRSS feeds are tagged with GPS coordinates and not the actual name of the location, Google will, “as best as we’re able to determine,” present you with a place card for the business the lines up best with these coordinates.

Being able to import Foursquare data, for example, should make it easier for Places users to add more ratings to the system, which in turn, of course, also means the Google will have more ratings to add to its own product.

Smart Idea – But Will Users Bite?

It’s hard not to look at this and think that Google hopes to compete with Yelp and similar services by being more open and allowing more of its data to flow in and out of the system. This, to me, sounds like a smart plan, though given that the current setup involves copying and pasting the addresses of RSS feeds, I doubt that many mainstream users will make use of it. Mainstream users have famously ignored RSS feeds for years, so chances are few will use this import/export feature.



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