The next generation of Internet Yellow Pages will inevitably include user reviews and ratings of services, whether they scare away advertisers or not. Some people have concluded that such reviews will be an interesting “extra.” My expectation is that they’ll be a core service from which all the other features sprout, including maps, urls, professional ratings, phone numbers, and Yellow Pages “copy points,” such as brands stocked, photos, hours, credit cards accepted and nearby businesses.
User reviews and ratings aren’t new. Of the major services, AOL has probably been collecting reviews the longest. Reviews from 1998 still show up on AOL’s undernourished “local experts” site. Yahoo! Local’s reviews, however, overtook AOL some time ago.
Since then, a lot of startups have entered the picture, hoping to carve out their own niches. These are generally more focused on the reviews, and less on other Yellow Pages features. Strategically, most probably have an end goal of selling to a major player at some point. Such local service-oriented sites include Insider Pages, Judy’s Book, CitySearch, Tribe, Cox’s Kudzu, BackFence and American Towns.
Among the local-oriented review sites, I liked Judy’s Book for its ease of use and high level of community. By allowing users to comment on all their life interests, it builds a better sense of community and more thoughtfulness. The site also provides a unique window into who is actually looking at which reviews, and counts them up. I’ve apparently got 319 looks at my 16 reviews; 119 of those looked at my mixed review of a local Honda dealer. It is definitely interesting, and brings a much heightened sense of community beyond Craig’s List.