Founded in 2004 by a trio of MRL Ventures guys based out of San Francisco, Yelp has grown into one of the leading search and user review sites in the world. Yelp got its name by truncating the words “Yellow Pages” into something short and catchy enough to stand out. Already surpassing its closest rival, Citysearch, Yelp has incorporated a social networking aspect into its site hoping to capitalize on the popularity of such sites as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter. Users of the site can type in whatever they are searching for (Japanese restaurant, dry cleaners, hair salon, etc) and where they are searching (as specific as a street or neighborhood or as general as a city or zip code) and seconds later they will be rewarded with a list, sorted by popularity according to a 5-star user rating system. Each of the results contain the basics, address, telephone, Website, as well as a blurb about the business and reviews from customers. The fact that the good, the bad and the ugly reviews are all included in the results makes the site an accurate and unbiased source of information when you need to narrow your options.
What’s Good: Read and write reviews on restaurants, shopping, events and other sights or activities in your home town or places you have visited. Even small town hot-spots have somehow amassed a heap of reviews – and not just those lame three word “I like it” reviews, but ones that are actually helpful.
What’s Bad: Has info on the US and just launched its UK version, but you’re screwed if you plan on venturing much beyond that. Also, users should keep in mind that the business does get to pick which review they want to show up first – so you may want to skip over that one – with that one exception the rest of the reviews are ordered by date they were posted, along with some more complicated algorithm.