By JOE CERVONE
It used to be that restaurant critiques came in two forms: from the written professionals and simply from word of mouth among friends and families. As the Internet as evolved and social media has expanded, it was only a matter of time before a forum would emerge that allowed everyday people to be their own critics and reviewers.
Today, the emergence of Yelp allows people the opportunity to read and write, real reviews of all types of businesses including restaurants, hair salons, gyms and mechanics. Started in 2004 out of San Francisco by PayPal software engineers Jeremy Stoppleman and Russel Simmons, Yelp, who’s name derives from “Yellow Pages” is a rapidly expanding website. As the website’s 10 Things You Should Know About Yelp mentions, “As of December 2010, more than 41 million people visited Yelp in the last 30 days.”
Fusing social networking with blogging, Yelp requires each user to create a profile where he or she is given the opportunity to upload personal pictures, create a headline and make a biography that includes questions like “My Last Meal on Earth” or “Don’t Tell Anyone Else But…” Similarly to Facebook, Yelpers can send compliments, messages and friend requests from their profiles to other members.
What makes Yelp so effective, is the general easiness of navigating the website. The search engine is very user-friendly, allowing members to make searches based on location and venue type. The general ease of the website, encourages users to visit early and often, submitting reviews to share with the Yelp community.