September 16, 2014

Yelp and FTC Agree to Settle Claim Concerning Mobile Registration Bug

Yelp recently reached a settlement agreement with the Federal Trade Commission regarding a bug in our mobile registration process that allowed certain users to register with any birth date when it was supposed to disallow registrations from individuals under 13 (birthdates on Yelp are optional in the first place, so users are always free to register without one).

The good news is that only about 0.02% of users who actually completed Yelp’s registration process during this time period provided an underage birth date, and we have good reason to believe that many of them were actually adults. Regardless, we don’t want any ambiguity when it comes to our users.  When this problem was brought to our attention, we fixed it immediately and closed the affected users’ accounts.  

Yelp doesn’t promote itself as a place for children, and we certainly don’t expect or encourage them to write reviews about their plumbers, dentists, or latest gastronomic discoveries. We’re glad to have been able to cooperate with the FTC to get to a quick resolution and look forward to continuing our efforts to protect our users.

 

September 10, 2014

California Protects Free Speech Online with Passage of “Yelp Bill”

Since Yelp started in 2004, one of our top priorities has always been to protect the ability for consumers to share their real experiences with local businesses, and we actively advocate for laws and rules that protect people from the rare occasions where business owners may attempt to use litigation, intimidation or fines in response to a negative review.

Today we’re pleased to say that we’re making progress with the passage of Assembly Bill (AB) 2365 into law by California Governor Jerry Brown, legislation some have affectionately come to call the “Yelp Bill.”

From time to time we hear about businesses that are so afraid of what their customers might say about them that they sneak clauses into consumer contracts designed to forbid their customers from saying anything bad about them on sites like Yelp. Some of these contracts even threaten fines or legal action. These types of non-disparagement contracts not only seek to intimidate potential reviewers away from sharing their honest experiences online, but also threaten to deprive the public of useful consumer information.

A five-star rating for a business who had used one of these clauses to simply scare all negative reviewers into removing their comments wouldn’t really represent the experience a consumer could expect to have at that business in our opinion.  

AB 2365 makes it explicitly clear that non-disparagement clauses in consumer contracts for goods or services in the state of California are void and unenforceable. What this means is that individuals writing online reviews in California are now further protected from those bad actors who hide jargon in consumer contracts in attempts to prohibit you from posting reviews -- positive or negative -- online.

While Yelp believes these types of contracts are generally unenforceable to begin with, it was important to us to work with CA state Assemblyman and former Speaker John Perez’s office as he crafted this legislation to ensure that it gave the broadest degree of protections to Yelpers in the state.

We urge other states around the country to follow the example that California has set and adopt similar laws to clarify that non-disparagement clauses in consumer contracts are void and unenforceable. These types of laws are good public policy and will help to protect Yelp users and consumers worldwide.

September 09, 2014

Women’s Health and Yelp Reveal the Top 20 Social Cities of 2014

Yelp’s got a whole lot of data, and we’re not afraid to use it. Our data, packed into more than 61 million reviews, tells us so much - from Yelpy Insights, like great spots for 20-somethings or vegetarians, to identifying consumer trends over time.

Recently, Yelp partnered with Women’s Health magazine to analyze our data and uncover the top 20 “social cities” in America, to be revealed in their October issue. Everyone knows New York and Los Angeles are hotbeds of cultural action, but what about the up-and-coming cities who are deserving of some attention? This list gives kudos to the top five cities in four distinct categories: active lifestyle, food, culture, and nightlife.

WH1014_NEWS

To narrow down the field of contenders, we first determined the types of businesses that would signal a “social city” for each category, like gyms, parks, and hiking trails for the active lifestyle category, and museums, music venues, and theaters for the culture category. Next, we sifted through Yelp’s reviews and business data to surface the cities with a large proportion of highly rated new businesses in each category to reveal the spots that are on the rise right now. We then weeded out the major metros we’re all familiar with to let the smaller cities shine. Based on that list, Women’s Health led extensive editorial research including interviews with Yelp Community Managers, local business owners, city experts and candid citizens to finalize the top 20.

Whew! A few months of research flew by fast. Check out the 2014 top 20 Social Cities below. Read more about each city, along with local business recommendations, at www.womenshealthmag.com/life/social-cities and in the October issue of Women’s Health magazine, on stands now. Make sure to take the accompanying online quizzes based on data from our partnership to pinpoint the ideal city to live in, your ideal foodie vacation, and more.

 

2014 Women’s Health and Yelp Social Cities

FITNESS

1. Scottsdale, AZ

2. Jersey City, NJ

3. Ann Arbor, MI

4. Portland, OR 

5. Charlotte, NC

 

NIGHTLIFE

1. Memphis, TN

2. Cleveland, OH

3. Pittsburgh, PA

4. Providence, RI

5. Seattle, WA

 

FOOD

1. Des Moines, IA

2. Rochester, NY

3. Oklahoma City, OK 

4. Albuquerque, NM

5. Birmingham, AL 

 

CULTURE

1. Austin, TX

2. Denver, CO

3. Raleigh, NC

4. Orlando, FL

5. San Diego, CA

September 02, 2014

Ninth Circuit Confirms That Yelp Does Not Extort

For years, fringe commentators have accused Yelp of altering business ratings for money.  Yelp has never done this and individuals making such claims are either misinformed, or more typically, have an axe to grind––whether businesses upset that Yelp will not remove reviews they don’t like, or unscrupulous internet marketing “experts” trying to make a buck off of honest business owners with dubious reputation management schemes.

In 2010, a few businesses took these conspiracy theories to court and filed several class actions against Yelp -- all of which were dismissed in Federal court. Today the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of these cases with their ruling in Levitt v. Yelp. Examining the businesses’ best facts after several attempts, the court found no extortion or any other wrongdoing by Yelp. The Court also dismissed as implausible some plaintiffs’ claims that Yelp authored negative reviews about them as part of a plot to obtain ad dollars. Instead, the Court noted that the facts only showed that the reviews were likely from actual customers, noting that “Yelp is a forum for consumers to review businesses, and huge numbers of consumers do just that.”

We are obviously happy that the Court reached the right result, and saw through these thin attempts by a few businesses and their lawyers to disparage Yelp and draw attention away from their own occasional negative review. We at Yelp are moving on, and focusing on our core mission––connecting people with great local businesses.

Yelp Consumer Alerts: Helping You Make Educated Spending Decisions

Yelp goes to extraordinary lengths in an effort to protect consumers from fake reviews. Our recommendation software is at the center of our operations, highlighting only those reviews that we think are going to be most helpful and reliable for consumers.

In addition, we employ a team of investigators who track down the most egregious offenders. We share their findings with consumers on Yelp through our Consumer Alerts program, which allows consumers on Yelp to make more informed decisions about where to spend their hard earned money.

Today we’re releasing 61 new Consumer Alerts on the Yelp pages of businesses ranging from dentists and hairdressers to plumbers and car dealers. These alerts warn consumers about instances where someone was trying to pay for good reviews, give discounts or exchanges for reviews, or cases where a substantial number of reviews originated from the same IP address. The alerts will stay up for 90 days.

Consumer Alert IP Address

Online reviews are incredibly helpful to consumers and impactful for businesses. A Nielsen survey revealed that 82% of Yelp users visit the site when preparing to spend money at a local business, and a Harvard study found that a 1-star increase in Yelp rating can lead to a 5 - 9% increase in revenue for a restaurant. That’s why, although the temptation may be there to cheat, it’s even more important for everyone to play by the rules.

Yelp particularly comes in handy when making a purchase decision on a big ticket item, like buying a car or mattress, or a service a consumer is not familiar with or doesn’t use often, like a chiropractor or moving company. All the more reason, then, that we want to warn consumers about questionable business practices before it hits their wallets.

For example, imagine you were considering using Atticare, a home cleaning company in New Jersey, or JCA Mechanical Plumbing & Heating in New York City, each of whom were the subject of private messages through Yelp offering money or gift cards in exchange for reviews on Yelp. Or if you decided to buy a car from Hooman Nissan in Long Beach, CA, where an employee was caught sending messages to Yelp users offering Clippers tickets in exchange for a 5-star review and even requested including his name in each review. In Las Vegas, Yelp’s detective team found that more than 50 reviews for towing company AAA Anytime INC came from the same IP address, indicating that someone may have been trying to goose their rating. And what’s worse, this is the third time we have warned this particular company about their behavior with a Consumer Alert. Those 50+ new reviews have been submitted since their last alert in February of this year.

Hooman

The evidence Yelp’s team discovered of a Hooman Nissan employee attempting to purchase reviews for the business.

You’d probably want to know about that behavior, right? These businesses may actually be providing great products and services, but that’s really what their Yelp rating should be based on, not fake reviews. That’s why Yelp goes to such lengths to protect consumers from this behavior in the first place and inform them of it as well.

The good news is that Yelp’s team caught this behavior. We just think consumers have the right to know what’s happening behind the scenes when deciding what businesses to patronize.

August 20, 2014

A Day in the Life of Stephanie T., Product Manager

Ladies and gents, meet Stephanie T., a Product Manager whose job entails launching Yelp in new markets across the globe. Since her start with the company back in 2011, she has helped bring Yelp to places like Japan, Poland and most recently, Chile. She also played a major part in integrating content into Yelp after our acquisition of the European review site, Qype. When she’s not launching Yelp in new countries, she’s out and about discovering the best doner kebab in town or chowing down on a bowl of bibimbap. Make sure to ask for her opinion on San Francisco ice cream… she’ll give you a breakdown for every spot in town!

Does Stephanie’s job sound like your dream career? Well, you could join her here at Yelp. Visit http://yelp.com/careers to see a list of openings and apply.

5733093474304000Stephanie T., Product Manager enjoying garlic steak from Alta Taberna Paco Meralgo in Barcelona

Why do you love being a part of the Yelp team?

I started as an enthusiastic member of the Yelp community writing reviews and exploring Seattle. I could tell even then that Yelp was going to change my life. When I met the people behind the product at Yelp HQ and saw what a smart, passionate and fun group they were, I knew this was a place I had to work. Since I’ve joined, my love and appreciation for the team at Yelp has grown immensely. We’re capable of doing anything! In my time at Yelp, we have tackled projects like launching Yelp in Japan and building communities of locals who love their cities around the globe. I’m excited to come to work each day because we’re taking on the world - literally, and changing it for the better.

Screen Shot 2014-04-30 at 5.21.21 PMAnnouncing Yelp’s launch in Japan

What is a typical day in the office like for you?

I wake up and check on Yelp’s status around the world. There could be a release happening in Hamburg, a report from Australia, or the latest round of feedback from our team in Europe. After an hour or two, I go to the gym for a run before heading into the office. From there, the day continues with a short team meeting and follow-up on any outstanding feature areas we are actively developing. The rest of the day is filled with a flurry of creating feature designs and documentation, investigating and prioritizing issues, reviewing release plans and figuring out the next strategic step for taking over the world. Just kidding about that last one...kind of.

What’s your advice for someone who might be interested in the Product Manager role at Yelp?

Product Management is a constant balancing act that involves a lot of tough decisions. Remember your customer, listen to your stakeholders, know your team, look for data, and be ready to make tradeoffs.

CollageL to R, clockwise: Posing after a successful country launch in Mexico; Holding last year’s gigantic Elite badge; Singing Japan’s national anthem to celebrate their addition to the Yelp family; With my team at an offsite in Tomales Bay

What’s your favorite thing about living in San Francisco? What are you up to when you’re not at work?

People say it all the time, but San Francisco really is an amazing food city. You have high-end restaurants sitting alongside hole-in-the-wall ethnic grub and every kind of eatery in-between, all using some of the freshest and highest quality ingredients in the world. I love eating out and can talk your ear off about almost any cuisine in town. I also love cooking and use San Francisco as inspiration.

What are a few of your current favorite local businesses?

I’m currently obsessed with Frances. This intimate American restaurant boasts fantastic service, well-presented food, and a truly innovative drink concept. Read my review or check out Frances for yourself to see what I mean!

I’m a sucker for mochas with fancy chocolate and Four Barrel has the best one in town. I have to confess that even with Yelp’s fantastic workplace coffee benefit, I still indulge in this luxury several times a week.

I travel the globe for Yelp and love to give exposure to great businesses I encounter abroad. La Sagrada Família is a beautiful church and popular attraction in Barcelona, but there’s a lot of insider tips to know before you visit for the best experience. 

August 15, 2014

Workforce Diversity at Yelp

At Yelp, diversity is important to our product, our work environment, and our ability to cultivate a successful global company. We seek to build a team with varying cultural backgrounds, life experiences, ages, genders, sexual orientations, religious and political beliefs, educations, opinions and more. Some of these are more easily measured, such as the gender and ethnicity statistics shown below that we are making available today.

I am not satisfied with these numbers. In particular, we must do more to recruit women to our tech team and minorities into all departments at Yelp. Some efforts we have undertaken to this point include:

  • Actively recruiting women engineers through sponsorship and participation at the Anita Borg Institute’s Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing and SoCal Celebration of Women in Computing Conference.
  • Participating in programs that benefit minority groups, including board membership by Yelp executives at Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT) and Year Up. We also have been fortunate to be able to hire Year Up participants for internship and full-time positions.
  • Participating in and hosting events for Women Who Code, Girl Geek Dinners, Lesbians Who Tech, Spark, and participating in CODE, a documentary about supporting women in engineering and computer science roles.
  • Internal women’s leadership and support groups, and management leadership development programs.

 

As a next step, we will be hiring a new leader to focus on diversity and to help accelerate our action in this area. For more information on Yelp’s current workforce diversity numbers, read our EEO-1 report.

Yelp_WorkforceDiversity_Q3_2014-01

August 13, 2014

Chile Chile Bang Bang!

Chi Chi Chi - Le Le Le

La distancia desde la oficina de Yelp en Manhattan hasta nuestra sede central en San Francisco es de 4.184 kilómetros, lo que coincidentemente resulta ser, de principio a fin, ¡la misma longitud del país que más recientemente se ha unido a Yelp! Se trata del hogar de cerca de 17 millones de personas, incontables pingüinos y de la piscina más grande del mundo. ¡Adivinaste! El país número 28 en Yelp es... ¡Chile!

Este país sudamericano puede parecer estrecho pero su superficie es dos veces mayor a la de Alemania. Chile no solo goza de la cordillera más larga del mundo, sino que además tiene soberanía en la Isla de Pascua y la Antártica.

Sus climas oscilan entre el desértico, la tundra y el tropical, entre muchos otros. Entre el desierto de Atacama en, el norte del país, y los archipiélagos de la Patagonia en el sur, encontrarás clima mediterráneo y un sinfín de viñedos, que hacen a Chile ¡el quinto mayor exportador de vino en el mundo! Por eso, asegúrate de maridar una copa de vino local con su inmensa variedad de productos marinos o, incluso, con platos tradicionales como la cazuela, la carbonada, el pastel de choclo o la empanada.

La excursión de Yelp en Chile comienza en Santiago: la capital y ciudad más grande del país, donde vive más de un tercio de la población nacional, o siete millones de potenciales yelpers. Desde el Museo Nacional Bellas Artes hasta el bohemio barrio Bellavista - y mucho más-, los chilenos ahora pueden usar Yelp para encontrar sus negocios locales favoritos, no sólo en Santiago sino que a lo largo de todo el país.

Ingresa a Yelp.cl  o descarga la aplicación de Yelp para dispositivos móviles y comienza a difundir tu conocimiento y sabiduría. ¡Los negocios también pueden ser parte de la acción! Ingresa a biz.yelp.cl y solicita tu página de manera gratuita, para así comenzar a construir tu perfil.

Chile Blog Image

Chile Chile Bang Bang!

The distance from Yelp’s office in Manhattan to our headquarters in San Francisco is 2,600 miles, which happens to be —from toe to tip — the same length as the newest country to join Yelp! It’s the home to some 17 million people, countless penguins, and the world’s largest swimming pool. You guessed it: Yelp’s 28th country is Chile!

This South American country may be svelte, but it’s actually twice the size of Germany by landmass. Not only do they boast the world’s longest mountain range, The Andes, Chile also administers Easter Island and has claims in Antarctica: adding tropical and frozen tundra to their diverse palette of climates.

Between the arid Atacama desert in the north, down to the archipelagos of Patagonia, you’ll find a Mediterranean climate and a bevy of vineyards; Chile is the fifth largest exporter of wine in the world! Be sure to pair a glass of local vino with their immense array of local seafood, or even with staples like cazuela, carbonada or pastel de choclo.

Yelp’s Chilean excursion starts in Santiago: the capital and largest city in the country is home to over one third of the national population, or seven million soon-to-be Yelpers. From Belle Arte to Bellavista and beyond, Chileans can now use Yelp to find their favorite local businesses across the country.

Log on to Yelp.cl or download Yelp’s mobile app to start spreading the wisdom. Businesses can get in on the action too at biz.yelp.cl by claiming their page for free and building out their profile.

 

August 07, 2014

Goodbye Language Barriers, Hello Mobile Review Translation!

Since 2004, the Yelp family has grown to include 27 countries, allowing Yelpers to write reviews in 15 languages. We want to make it even easier to tap into the rich, local wisdom in Yelp reviews, so today we’re announcing a brand new feature on the Yelp iPhone app: automated review translation!

Picture this: You’re vacationing in Milan and want to try the best gelato in the city. Although there’s a gelato shop on every corner, you want to find the real deal - a spot that isn’t overflowing with tourists. You whip out your handy Yelp app to begin the search, but find yourself wishing you paid more attention in Italian class in high school. Now you can discover recommendations straight from the local experts themselves, no matter what language they speak.

Mobile Review Translation collage 2

Translated reviews for Latteneve in Milan, Italy.

The Yelp app uses Bing Translator to translate foreign language reviews with the tap of a button. You can translate one review, or all reviews in one language at a time.

Although machine-translation is not perfect, it’s a fantastic resource for understanding the overall meaning and context of a review that would otherwise be unavailable to a Yelper who does not speak that language. Use this feature to get a general idea of a reviewer’s experience, but understand that some details may be lost in translation.

Yelp has always given both locals and travelers alike the ability to find the best hidden gems through the knowledge of the Yelp global community, and mobile review translation makes that even easier. This tool also gives local businesses that are a bit off the beaten path a better chance to be discovered by travelers. Sounds like a win-win situation to us!

The translation feature works for all 15 officially supported Yelp languages: English, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, German, Spanish, Italian, Norwegian, French, Polish, Portuguese, Swedish, Turkish, and Japanese.

Review translation is only available on the Yelp mobile app - iPhone today and Android soon to come - so make sure to download the iPhone app before you hit the road. Happy travels, Yelpers!

August 06, 2014

Cheers To 10 Years of Yelp!

In summer of 2004, the idea for Yelp was born. Twenty seven countries, fourteen Hackathons, six offices, more than 2,100 employees, thousands of local Yelp events, countless cups of coffee, and two Colbert bumps later, we have officially reached our 10 year milestone. Who would have thought that a simple idea to bring word-of-mouth recommendations online would become a tool used by millions of people worldwide to discover great local businesses?

JeremydarwincollageJeremy and Darwin, 2004 and now

Since Yelp was created, more than 61 million rich, local reviews have been contributed to the site (it would take you about 96 years, 10 months and 20 days to read them all, but don’t worry, that’s why we have review highlights!). To wrap our heads around the depth and breadth of data Yelp has collected over the past decade, we put together an infographic to celebrate our journey - from major milestones, to fun facts, and everything in between.

10yearInfographic_final_largeTen years of Yelp, visualized (click to enlarge)

  • Yelpers love to snap pics, with about 24,000 photos uploaded via Yelp’s mobile apps every day (as of Q2 2014) and the most “photogenic” business being Bottega Louie in Los Angeles
  • It’s no secret that Yelpers love to eat, but they also love to treat themselves to the occasional spa visit. “Nail salon” is one of the top 15 searches on Yelp!
  • We can’t forget about those businesses with a little “local flavor” - in fact, we have a whole category for them. The Corn Palace in South Dakota (quite literally a palace made of corn) claims the #1 spot for “local flavor” in the whole state.

 

Yelp has always been about connecting people both online and off, so we had to ring in the big 1-0 with our dedicated community of Yelpers. Just last weekend, we celebrated our 10 year anniversary in the city where it all started, San Francisco. Yelpers from all around the world flew to the Golden State to be a part of the action. Events were held all weekend long throughout the Bay Area, including a Gold Soirée at our headquarters, attended by our Gold Elite members (that’s Elites who’ve held the coveted badge for five years!).

But the celebration didn’t end there. From Barcelona to Tulsa to Miami and beyond, passionate Yelpers from all around the world came together to celebrate a decade’s worth of Yelping. Over in Philadelphia, outstanding Yelpers and local businesses were awarded “Yelpies,” while other communities, like Yelp Lille, celebrated their respective “burst” days. 

CollageyelpiversaryL to R, clockwise: Philadelphia CM awarding a “Yelpie”; A 10th birthday cake in Lille, France; Tucson Yelpers showing off the #10YearsofYelp love; Posing with some Yelpers at the Gold Soirée in San Francsico

It’s been quite a ride, and we want to give a big thanks to all of you, the Yelpers, for bringing this idea to life. Yelp would not exist without its community of passionate locals who are dedicated to discovering the best of their city and sharing their experiences with others. Thanks for a great first decade. Here's to the next #10YearsOfYelp