Google Places, but it asks forgiveness instead of permission. Instead of requiring owners to manually update the listing, Google Places will now automatically update with user-submitted info or updates to another source on the Web that Google identifies. When a listing is updated, the system will notify the business owner of the change by email.Google just launched a more streamlined process for updating small business listings on
Google touts this as a convenience and points out that a business owner can quickly log in from the email and correct any erroneous changes. But this is sort of a strange update. Google Places listings are an important way for businesses to be discovered from Web search, and business owners might not be partial to those listings updating without their expressed consent. Then again, some might feel that maintaining Google listings is a hassle, and this update will save them the effort.
This update indicates that Google needs tighter control over the information in its business listings. It's hard to spin an update that takes control out of business owners' hands as a good thing. Local businesses are an important strategic part of Google's expansions into local and mobile revenue streams, and imposing automatic updates on those listings is an aggressive play.
It's worth noting that this part of Google's business is under scrutiny for anti-competitive practices. Yelp, Google's most celebrated competitor in local business listings, testified in Washington against Google for scraping Yelp's content for its own purposes and pushing Yelp results out of the way.
Google is pushing hard to control this market. It bought Zagat to get better content about local businesses, it bought Dealmap to push against Groupon on local deals, and it's using Android to close the loop and get businesses on board with Google Wallet NFC payments.
What's the rush? Well, Google rules search for now, but Apple just shipped a record number of iPhones loaded with an artificially intelligent search assistant called Siri. Location - and thus mobile devices - is an essential part of connecting consumers to local businesses, and Siri is the most convenient way to make that connection on the new iPhone. Guess what: Siri uses Yelp.
Are you a business owner? What do you think of the change? Does it make your life easier, or would you prefer to have control?