Yelp yearns for trust with new site changes

Ronny Kerr · April 6, 2010 · Short URL:

Transparent filtering system and discontinued "Favorite Review," Yelp responds to extortion claims

yelp changesIn direct response to extortion claims, Yelp has announced that it will let users see the reviews removed by its filter and is discontinuing the "Favorite Review" feature.

We first reported in late February how a veterinary hospital in Long Beach, CA had ignited a class-action lawsuit against Yelp by claiming that the user-generated local business review site had repeatedly requested monthly payments of about $300 in exchange for the deletion of negative reviews.

Yelp firmly denied the allegations then, but now they are enacting tangible changes to make the site more transparent to users.

The first is a reaction to doubts about how honestly Yelp's system functioned when removing reviews that were supposed to be gaming the system, like reviews specifically requested by business owners. With the new update, users can now see any of the filtered-out reviews.

Secondly, Yelp has done away with the "Favorite Review" feature for business owners because it had led some users to believe that those same business owners had a hand in Yelp reviews. To eliminate any lingering confusion, Yelp is just doing away with the feature entirely.

Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman personally explained the need for the changes:

Why? Because while Yelp has seen tremendous growth in just a few years, we're still new to a lot of people. Despite our best efforts to educate consumers and the small business community, myths about Yelp have persisted. [...] Lifting the veil on our review filter and doing away with "Favorite Review" will make it even clearer that displayed reviews on Yelp are completely independent of advertising -- or any sort of manipulation. We also hope it will demonstrate the importance of a safeguard such as our filter and the unique challenge we face daily to maintain the integrity of the review content on our site.

Despite grievances brought against the site in February, Yelp is still a growing force. The site saw 31 million visitors last month, up just slightly from January, when the site saw 29 million.

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