Thursday, Google announced, via their blog, that they were making an alteration to Google Places. Effective immediately, outside reviews have been removed from Google Places. For those who don't know what Places is, it is a service that allows people to find local restaurants, cafes, bars, etc. You can also get and give reviews on the locations you visit.
This service, originally called Hotspot, is not an original concept from Google. In fact, there are several competitors in the market, including Yelp and TripAdvisor. The unique thing about Places is that it collected the reviews from these other sites and showed them on their own pages as part of the reviews and ratings.
So, why did Google remove this information? Hit the break to find out.
Google's blog post on the topic gave this explanation,
Based on careful thought about the future direction of Place pages, and feedback we've heard over the past few months, review snippets from other web sources have now been removed from Place pages. Rating and review counts reflect only those that’ve been written by fellow Google users, and as part of our continued commitment to helping you find what you want on the web, we’re continuing to provide links to other review sites so you can get a comprehensive view of locations across the globe.
Google has recently been under investigation by a series or US and foreign government agencies for anti-trust. One of the main complaints has been from companies like Yelp who claim that Google steals their content and uses it as their own to promote their own products. Google, of course, has offered a solution: remove your Google listing. That would, of course, prevent new users from finding out about Yelp.
Clearly, this move has nothing to do with "careful thought" but, instead, has everything to do with trying to prevent a Bell Telephone-style government breakup. This could certainly be a sign of good faith from the country's leading search provider, but it also might be too little too late. Yelp has been petitioning to have their content removed from Google Places since shortly after its launch. It took until an international anti-trust investigation to finally convince them to give it "careful thought" and make the right decision.
My guess is this isn't going to change the course of the investigations, but it is going to finally show Google Places for the content-less product it always was.