Big news from Yelp: The online review site has announced that users of their app will now be able to write and post "useful, funny and cool reviews" directly from their mobile devices. Up until this point, mobile users had limited reviewing capabilities with such tools as drafting (so users could write, but not post, on the go) and quick tips, which are limited to 140 characters. Yelp's decision represents a potentially devastating change to the character and quality of its already questionable content. Increased typos and even more phones on tables might be predictable outcomes, but will live reviewing also increase the amount of vindictive negative reviews being posted?
Prior to this change, Yelp had been quite deliberate in its choice not to offer full-fledged mobile reviewing. In an official blog post from 2009, the company explained that its decision to limit mobile reviews was a way to help keep review quality high:
But why not full reviews? Well imagine what it would be like if reviews were done in SMS shorthand: "OK so, IANAE, but AFAIC this place has THE best Cfood. It was gr8! ADBB"
We love the witty quality of the reviews and the insight that Yelpers share in their detailed accounts of their experiences. We've found that Quick Tips and Draft Reviews are mobile features that provide eager Yelpers with an outlet to catalog their immediate experiences or jot notes that they can then add to or edit when they get back to a computer. While we're not saying that writing Yelp reviews on your mobile device is out of the question, we feel very strongly about maintaining the high level of content you all provide.
Given that for years Yelp consciously chose not to enable mobile reviewing, it's possible that their decision was motivated by the fact that reviews on Foursquare are growing faster than reviews on Yelp.
Enabling mobile reviewing creates a system of "live reviewing" in which users can review as they experience, not having to take time nor energy to think through what they are writing before posting. A potential side effect might be immediate low reviews for restaurants with long waits, crowded bars, or a full house. Philadelphia chef Joe Cicala was once threatened with a low Yelp review from someone who couldn't get into his restaurant Le Virtu. The phenomenon of Yelp extortion isn't new, and surely threats of bad reviews from unhappy Yelpers will be more likely realized if posting a review is just a matter of taking out a phone. Restaurants take heed: Yelp may just have opened the floodgates to vindictive amateur critics headed your way.