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Archive for September, 2011


Google swallows Zagat Ratings

Two years after it tried and failed to buy Yelp, Google has reached an agreement with Tim and Nina Zagat of the eponymous Zagat Survey to acquire their company:

“With Zagat, we gain a world-class team that has more experience in consumer based-surveys, recommendations and reviews than anyone else in the industry,” said Marissa Mayer, a Google vice president responsible for the tech giant’s efforts in local, maps and location services, in a blog post.

“Moving forward, Zagat will be a cornerstone of our local offering — delighting people with their impressive array of reviews, ratings and insights, while enabling people everywhere to find extraordinary (and ordinary) experiences around the corner and around the world.”

Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed, but the Monster of Mountain View reportedly paid somewhere in the neighborhood of $125 million.

Zagat has been in business for more than thirty years. It was created in 1979 to organize and aggregate restaurant reviews. For many years, its guides were sold as books.

In the late 1990s, Zagat actually had a partnership with Microsoft, which integrated its restaurant guide into its Expedia Streets 98 mapping program. (Streets later became Microsoft Streets & Trips; Expedia was ultimately spun off as a separate company.)

Now Zagat is just another cog in the Googleplex.

Pretty sad that its founders decided to sell out instead of remaining independent.


Proof that Google Places is a joke

The New York Times has another tale of Google crowdsourcing gone awry. It seems that some people are using a “feature” on Google Places to falsely report that a competing business has closed up shop and gone away. It’s a system that’s easily abused:

In mid-August, a search consultant and blogger named Mike Blumenthal was so rankled by what he considered Google’s cavalier attitude to closings on Google that he committed an act of online disobedience: He “closed” Google’s offices in Mountain View, Calif. For a brief period, Google itself was “reportedly closed,” according to Places. “I did it to point out how annoying this is when it happens,” he said.

Excellent, Mike. Most excellent!

On Aug. 15, Mr. Blumenthal posted a screen shot of Google’s Places page “reportedly closed,” noting that it took just two people — him and a friend — to pull off this stunt. It seemed to get the company’s attention. At least one change to closings on Places has already been made. Since late August, a business that is newly tagged “permanently closed,” receives an alert via e-mail from Google, informing the business owner of the change.

The New York Times article ends, however, by noting that some frustrated business owners have been unable to get the Monster of Mountain View to remove malicious “closed” and “permanently closed” notices despite repeated emails and phone calls. Why does that not surprise us?