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It looks like local search and review site Yelp is entering the location-based fray. In the latest version of its iPhone app, Yelp has added the ability for users to “check-in” and share their location with friends, similar to what you can do on services like Foursquare and Gowalla.
Judging from the description on the company blog, Yelp Check-ins will have the features I’d expect: Your friends can see a list of all of your check-ins. You can bring up a map of nearby check-ins. You can cross-post your check-ins on other services like Twitter. Yelp will highlight users who check-in frequently at a single location, but unlike Foursquare’s game feature, where everyone competes to become the only “mayor” of particular location, each location in Yelp Check-ins will have a group of “regulars.”
The company says:
“Yelp Check-ins is a natural extension of our existing product. Best of all, it gives the 1.25 million people who used our app last month a new way to share information about local businesses with their friends and other users. Check-ins will also be integrated into our website experience, adding another layer of trusted data for consumers who are reading the reviews. Now not only will you be able to see who posted the review — but how many times they’ve been there. This also helps business owners understand who some of their most loyal customers are.”
Yelp has the advantage of a large audience, plus it can integrate check-ins with its existing data and services. As noted above, Yelp plans to show check-in counts next to reviews, so you can see if the reviewer is basing their opinion on lots of experience or a single visit. And as businesses are starting to do with Foursquare, they can offer promotions and discounts to their regulars.
The question is whether Yelp can convince a large percentage of its users that they want to share this kind of information. Meanwhile, besides the location-based services I already mentioned, Yelp may have other competition soon: Twitter acquired a company called Mixer Labs last year to do more with location data, and we’ve also predicted that Facebook will enable location sharing sometime this year.
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