Google to Zagat reviewers: join Google+ or else…

Pirates, walk the plank

Zagat fans received an email this week saying the restaurant rating site will pull the plug on user reviews — unless, that is, they sign up for a Google+ account.

I received a copy of the email by way of a disgruntled friend who harrumphed about the search giant finding another way of “forcing” users onto its unloved social network. Here’s what the email said (emphasis in original):

Thank you for being a valuable member of the Zagat community and for contributing your reviews of local businesses. We are making some changes to zagat.com and want you to be aware of how the changes will affect you.

On July 10, 2013, Zagat editorial ratings and reviews will be made available to all zagat.com users; you will no longer need to sign in with an account to view them. At this time, we will also be removing the user account system on zagat.com. You will still be able to participate in future Zagat surveys, either anonymously or with a Google+ account. However, all ratings and reviews you have added on zagat.com (as well as any lists and photos) will no longer be available.

The text is a little confusing: on one hand, it says that ratings and reviews will be open to “all zagat.com” users but, on other hand, warns in bold letters that “all ratings and reviews you have added .. will no longer be available.”

So which is it? Is Google giving us all the reviews or taking them away? I looked into it and here’s what’s going on: the good news is that, as of July 10, everyone will be able to see all the category scores and Zagat’s curated editors’ reviews (both these features now require registration). The flip side is that, if you want to see other diners’ reviews, or leave one of your own, you better get on Google+. Here’s what you see if you’re a Zagat later-comer and try to register now:

Zagat, Google+ screenshot

It’s not obvious why Google can’t just leave the user reviews as they are. Google declined to comment for the record but the likely answer, as it always is with Google, is data: the company will now be able to combine your restaurant preferences with your Google map information — which will in turn be a boon for mobile advertising.

Google watchers may also take note that Zagat was not one of the products included in the company’s mass consolidation of privacy policies that swept email, YouTube and more under the same data umbrella.

As for Google+, it’s become increasingly clear that that it is not just a social network but also a back door for the company to obtain social data all the same.

(Image by Everett Collection via Shutterstock)

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