Yelp killer?

Facebook tests Yelp-like service devoted to local businesses

Facebook is quietly testing a new feature that allows its users to find “local businesses with the best Facebook reviews and ratings” through its website.

The feature allows Facebook users to look up everything from automotive repair shops to wedding planners near their locations. (They can also manually search for businesses in a different area.) Results are shown with review snippets, a star rating, contact information, and the address. It is, in other words, just like Yelp.

Businesses seem to be ordered based on the number of reviews they’ve received. This makes sense for Facebook — why have something with two reviews as the top result when another business has dozens? — but it’s weird to see a business with a four-star rating appear far above a business that’s often given five stars.

Professional Services, as the feature is called, makes sense for Facebook. The company has been trying to become more useful to businesses lately, whether it’s by introducing the Facebook at Work service or allowing them to stay in touch with customers via the Messenger platform, as it diversifies revenue sources.

The surprising thing is that it might actually make sense for Facebook’s users, too. Even though Yelp has remained the de facto standard for finding businesses, Facebook might have the edge in some cases. I searched for gyms in a nearby city, for example, and Professional Services had many more reviews than Yelp.

Facebook also has the benefit of requiring people to use their real names with their profiles. It’s easier to trust a review from a friend, acquaintance, or family member than it is to trust anonymous users. You know whether your aunt has wonderful taste in hairdressers; you don’t know the same about XxBoWlCuTsxX.

But posting under real names might have its drawbacks. GlobalWebIndex, a firm which regularly surveys Facebook users about their habits, told Gigaom that just 10 percent of respondents to a recent survey “posted a negative comment about a product or brand.” Reviews could be skewed by users afraid to be seen as mean.

This is clearly a quiet test of a potential feature. Facebook never announced that it’s testing something like this, and a request for comment on this story wasn’t immediately returned. The company isn’t yet competing head-to-head with Yelp, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Professional Services gets more attention soon.

h/t Search Engine Land