Google announced Friday that the Google Places data it makes available to app developers will now include Place Summaries, which are hand-curated reviews of the places and businesses listed on Google. This means high-quality information from Google such as Zagat reviews can be easily included in location-based apps.
As a Google Maps user, I'm excited about this. I really want Google to beef up its offerings for finding restaurants, stores, and other local places. The more rich place info it makes available to developers, the more useful Google Maps and Google Places will be for people in the Google ecosystem.
The Best Place For Places
The competition in local search apps is intense right now. Yelp is built into Apple's OS, so iOS users end up searching from there all the time, but it's not as good at personal recommendations as Foursquare. Many other mobile applications pull places from Foursquare, but since it's not integrated completely into any mobile OS, it's not as easy to use.
Meanwhile, when Facebook announced Graph Search this week, Yelp's stock fell off a cliff. Facebook has the best social data for recommendations by far, and Graph Search will make it easy to use Facebook for searches like "sushi restaurants my friends like."
Undoubtedly, these new features will come with more provocation by Facebook's app to use Facebook to check into places. Facebook has features built into iOS, OS X and Windows, so it seems plausible that Facebook's Graph Search will become native features of those operating systems.
Google Should Have The Edge
But for Google users on any OS, there are really good reasons to prefer Google Places to being locked into Facebook. Google Maps is the best mapping service in the world, for one thing. But Google also likely has data from your email and searches, making its personal recommendations quite accurate as well. It may not have the relationship data from Google+ that Facebook has inside its own blue walls, but Google has a pretty good idea of what its users want, and it offers the best service for helping them get there.
And Google Places is especially important for Android users, who have Google Now as a sort of concierge reminding them of appointments and suggesting convenient places to go.
But unfortunately, especially for iOS users, there aren't that many useful features of Google+ Local as a recommendation service yet. But starring places on Google services is the easiest wan to make a list of bookmarks in Google Maps, which, speaking for myself, is definitely my preferred navigation app on iOS. So I want more powerful features for place recommendations.
Now that Google is extending better review content to developers, I hope more apps will build interesting ways to discover places using Google's services.