Yelp Adds Mobile, Partners with Palm Treo

Yelp, a social network/Yellow Pages hybrid, has launched a mobile version for the Palm Treo as part of a broader marketing relationship between the two companies. Terms are not being disclosed, but cash and tech support have likely been provided in exchange for Yelp’s “optimizing” for the Treo, and for advertising the Treo relationship on the Yelp site, its weekly member newsletter and live member events.

Palm clearly hopes that some of Yelp’s local cache and utility can be extended. It has been several years since Palm’s first successful, but less formal partnership with Vindigo, a premium cityguide that launched in 1999 and is now distributed primarily by wireless carriers. (Vindigo is currently owned by For-Side.com. While mostly under the radar, with no press releases issued in 2006, Vindigo claims to have 100 national advertisers.)

Yelp’s website provides a number of plausible scenarios for using the mobile edition:

• You just left dinner with some friends and need a nice nearby bar/ lounge to sit, chat and digest.
• You’ve been meaning to try that new restaurant and, feeling spontaneous, you pay 411 to get the phone number to make a reservation for tonight.
• You find out that the restaurant is booked solid, so you need to find other nearby eateries that other folks liked.
• You’re out of town for business, and as a cab zips you from the airport to your hotel, you’re wondering about some fun shops to pick up a unique souvenir for the honey.

By going mobile, Yelp joins the ranks of the biggest IYPs and local-oriented search engines with mobile browsing and/or SMS text services, including AOL, Google, MSN, Yahoo! and Local.com. Direct competitors such as CitySearch, Judy’s Book, Insider’s Pages and BackFence do not appear to have launched any type of mobile editions.

Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman confirms that the Treo relationship was the impetus for Yelp adding mobile to the mix, but notes that any Web-enabled mobile device can use Yelp services such as maps, directory info and reviews. Only images of Yelp’s reviewers and reviewed businesses have been specifically tailored for The Treo. Speaking personally, he’s been accessing Yelp on his Razr. I tried out the mobile service on my PC, and it worked fine, albeit a little slow.

Hometown San Francisco remains Yelp’s largest market, with 150,000 reviews. Chicago and New York run second and third, with Boston, Los Angeles and Seattle the next largest markets. More detail on the company is available from a Local Onliner profile in March 2006.