Google Places is dead, long live Google+ Local

We called it. After Google bought out restaurant review site Zagat in 2011, we said that it signalled the company had “good taste” and that Google+ would become “a repository for your Google user data”.

The company’s announcement that it would be scuppering Google Places and replacing it with Google+ local, which it calls “a simple way to discover and share local information featuring Zagat scores and recommendations from people you trust in Google+”, shows just how far we’ve come along that road.

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Back in January we said:

If you allow it to, Google is going to use that data to recommend to you what to do next in your life based on what you’ve searched, your friend’s recommendations and where you are on the planet.

I’m starting to think Graeme Lipschitz, the columnist who wrote that article, has a future in clairvoyance.

According to Google, the new local information will be implemented across Google. That means “you can search for specific places or browse for ones that fit your mood. If you click on a restaurant, or a museum (or whatever), you’ll be taken to a local Google+ page that includes photos, Zagat scores and summaries, reviews from people you know, and other useful information like address and opening hours”. The same applies for products like Google Maps, which will also feature Local in its Android and iOS apps.

Suddenly that Zagat acquisition makes sense. After all, Zagat has over three decades worth of reviews from hundreds of thousands of people about tens of thousands of places. Each place you see in Google+ Local will now be scored using Zagat’s 30-point scale, which tells you all about the various aspects of a place so you can make the best decisions.

For example, a restaurant that has great food but not great decor might be 4 stars, but with Zagat you’d see a 26 in Food and an 8 in Decor, and know that it might not be the best place for date night.

But not everyone has the same tastes. That’s where the social element comes in. Google claims that it will bring up your friends’ reviews and photos in local searches, as well as the option to share your own pics and thoughts on places.

“Today is just the first step, and you’ll see more updates in the coming months”, Google says. “If you’re a business owner, you can continue to manage your local listing information via Google Places for Business. Soon we’ll make it even easier for business owners to manage their listings on Google and to take full advantage of the social features provided by local Google+ pages”.

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