29
Jul
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Update: Zagat claims the number of cities available will be expanded to 50 over "the coming months," and that old restaurant reviews will be made available on the web page "soon." Woohoo, a whole 50, guys!

Ever have your parents pull the old 'bait and switch' on you when you were a kid? "Hey Jimmy, here's a brand-new bike. And by the way, your mom and I are getting divorced!" Well, Google pretty much just tried doing basically that to Zagat fans. You see, the Zagat app and website got a total overhaul today. They look pretty nice - everything's all card-y. Oh, and now you can watch videos in the app, and see menus. Neat! You don't even need Google+ to sign in anymore.

Oh, and by the way, all but nine major metropolitan areas' reviews and content are gone. Completely. Have fun! Zagat fans are understandably hotter than a stone oven-cooked artisan pizza covered in Sriracha about this, and it's hard not to sympathize.

happycustomers

Ever since Google bought Zagat, it hasn't really been clear what exactly their big plan for the company was. Integrating scores into searches and Maps wasn't much of a help, and the standalone app was nice (as was dropping the registration fee), but it always felt like the big Z was in a bit of acquisition limbo.

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This abrupt culling of content, then, would seem to be indicative of Google's continued inability to capitalize on the buyout. Zagat's always been something of an oddball, and while it has a very dedicated paid subscriber base, even as someone who places way too much trust in restaurant reviews, I always had a hard time really getting much out of Zagat. For serious high-end diners and travel nuts, it was a go-to (not to mention a membership fee gave it a feeling of exclusivity), but I don't think it resonated with Google-lovers the way the company wanted. Its meager 100,000-500,000 installs and 500 reviews on the Play Store (tiny for a Google-published app) put it in the company of misfit products like Google Catalogs.

Really, it's safe to say that any ambitions Google had about Zagat being a Yelp-killer have probably been given a rather hefty dose of reality. So, what do you do with products that are losers? You either kill them, shrink them, or try to turn them around. Google did a bit of all three here. The "new" Zagat appears to focus much more on article and video content about restaurants and food, and move away from becoming a full-on restaurant review service. It also very much feels like Google is distancing itself from the service by removing pretty much all Google product integration with it. I'm willing to bet a hefty staff cut was on the menu, as well.

Altogether, one has to wonder if Google is trying to make Zagat appetizing to outside buyers. Trimmed, dressed, and sporting a modern presentation completely devoid of direct reference to Google involvement, Zagat isn't really looking like a product getting ready for final absorption into the heart of the Google machine.

I will say, the new app is very pretty, and as an LA resident (one of the nine supported regions), I'll be giving it a whirl again to see if Zagat can finally win my affection. I probably shouldn't get too attached, though.

David Ruddock
David's phone is whatever is currently sitting on his desk. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • James Barr

    I hate Yelp, personally. I've submitted three legitimate reviews for different places over the course of a couple of different years, and they were all flagged and hidden. Lesson learned: I simply can't trust Yelp reviews.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      Eh, I find that sort of thing to be pretty rare. I've left a few bad ones, and they're still there. Business owners do hate Yelp, though, and some of them will do anything they can to get a bad review taken down. Granted, it's not that easy.

      I find Yelp isn't very trustworthy when the restaurant has fewer than 25 reviews. You get owners asking friends / relatives to 5-star them - totally happens. I also tend to gloss over 1-star reviews for service complaints, because most of them come down to a bad experience with a single employee over a single incident. Shit happens.

      I admit I do still place too much trust in it, though, and it has occasionally let me down. But if I hold myself to a 4.5 star+ standard, it's pretty damn reliable if you're in a major metro area.

      • James Barr

        That's my point, David. You see practically every business on Yelp having a bunch of one-star trolls that can't spell half their words correctly, but I post an eloquent good review with no typos, and with 100% legitimate content, and oh it must be an employee talking the place up, get rid of it. Watching me go 3 for 3 on completely legitimate positive reviews has irked me more than words can describe, and I refuse to throw any site hits their way because of it, personally.

      • antifud

        I try to flag this when I can - not to improve yelp, but because it annoys *me*, and it's really clear when the reviews are bs.
        something like "I went to the restaurant and David Ruddock, the waiter, provided amazing service!" (5 stars), or the same with 1 star.
        or "This place makes great food! it's absolutely the best! blah blah blah details (without mentioning any actual personal opinion or reference of their experience).

        I do wish they left up the amy's baking company reviews, as the maximum trolling there was entertaining.

        Meanwhile, yelp does have a bit of the bad with the good - I've seen people firsthand trying to throw their weight claiming to be important wtih yelp, and I've heard about people being shaken down by yelp sales with shady pitches instead of just "hey we can help promote your business".

        zagat however, i find to just be crap. weird inconsistent rating system, terrible if nonexistent reviews.

        at least tripadvisor seems to be a bit above in general, plus has a much larger (read: international) audience.

      • HopelesslyFaithful

        its all about understanding on how to sort the information and pick out the good stuff. It is like reading amazon reviews. You skim a few 5 stars and take away a little then you skim the 1 stars just in case there is something legitimate. After that you take a quick gander at the 3/4 star reviews and after 5-10 mins you have a decent idea of what the item or place is like.

      • Brandon Watkins

        Just out of curiosity why doesn't anybody use Google Maps reviews? I mean I know a lot of people who are always using Google maps to get to a place, so my not just review it on there too? I personal Have 26 reviews and that's the most I've every seen. Have you had bad experiences? I just want everyone's opinion on why they don't use it.

        I would really love seeing more people use it. To me its just a hell of a lot more convent than loading up two or even three apps looking for a reviews. It has everything all the others have, except videos of course.

        • Bojan Gutic

          I started leaving reviews on Google maps recently. I'm going to start doing it more often now, because it's so easy to do.

          • Brandon Watkins

            Same here, I just don't know why more ppl don't. It really is that simple. Everybody already has the app pre installed when they first get there device. I wish more ppl started using it.

    • antifud

      prove it. link to the reviews. I'd find that pretty skeptical, this as I am a guy who does a lot of yelp and zagat review stuff. Or did you make homophobic/racist comments in your reviews? I can't see a lot of other reasons to get your reviews flagged, unless they are for amy's baking company.

      Yelp also says *why* they flag, so what was the why? hmm?

      • James Barr

        Believe what you want, antifud. You clearly already do. Go look at the filtered reviews for Coyote's Bar & Grill in Hillsboro, OR and find the one by me, James B. Read it and try to make a claim for why that should possibly be filtered. Also check out my filtered review for Picnic's Hot Dogs in Kirkland, WA. However, I'll give Yelp a LITTLE credit now, as my other two reviews (I had 4 total, not 3, I guess) are both live/unfiltered. 6 months ago, all of them were filtered.

        • antifud

          So, I'm fairly sure that was your first review and/or someone randomly hit a snag (if yours was the 5 star). Again,I am not authority here but I don't think it has anything to do with what was in your review itself, as I've posted far more scathing crap and even had it make review of the day sometimes, which I find to be a joke.

          what was the explanation for why it was filtered? That restaurant in particular seems to have an excess of them (70), mostly people with 0-1 friends and 1-2 reviews (which will get you flagged, almost every time). Lots of businesses will have their own employees rate the place and no friends/no reviews is a strong sign of a fake, likewise if the place is rated horribly. Usually even if someone wants to say a place sucked, they'll usually post a few other reviews as well.

          sorry that your yelp experience sucked, but I wouldn't take it personally. I don't think anything indicates "you have magically done something wrong", so much as wrong place at the wrong time, so to speak.

  • http://www.jaxidian.org/update teh Jax

    Don't forget, though, that Zagat reviews are baked into Google Maps, so looking at just the app installs for Zagat isn't quite fair...

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      Zagat scores no longer show in the Android Google Maps app. If the place is in a Zagat list, it will show that.

      • http://www.jaxidian.org/update teh Jax

        Yeah, I'm just saying that more people used Zagat (in the past) than what would be indicated by the Zagat download numbers.

  • Willie D

    Zagat sucks. Majority of the restaurants reviewed I've been to have great reviews but in actuality were dumps and gross. I'm ashamed Google bought them and didn't tank it. Yelp is crap in a different way but essentially any review site that allows bitter people to say a place sucks when it doesn't or says a place is the best when its a roach infestation breeding ground all need to be bought out and exterminated. Google is doing right by killing Zagat!

    • Wesley Modderkolk

      "Majority of the restaurants reviewed I've been to have great reviews but in actuality were dumps and gross."
      I'm not sure if you are aware of it, but people have different opinions.

      • HopelesslyFaithful

        sounds like he watches too much hells kitchen.....that show has fairly much ruined eating out for me :/ I guess for the better though

  • Grimmjow

    I don't know if they are preparing this for a sale but this is the right move. Keep user reviews/ratings in Google Maps and a dedicated foodie site for expert recommendations. They're learning from Yelp's mistakes.

  • Bob G

    I've noticed that the majority of David Ruddock articles all have a pessimistic tone to it. I guess law school has made him hate everything in life and only see things half empty.

    • cabbiebot

      Welcome to Android Police! He's my favorite little sourpuss.

      • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

        I do what I can.

        • Gav456

          +1^ each for noticing it, liking it, and doing it deliberately. I get pretty much the same vibe from Artem, too. Even more so in the comments

    • Cerberus_tm

      Can you blame him, when Google is busy removing functionality and content in various applications (Maps! The web Play Store! Reader! Etc. etc.)? Yes, they also add some new functions, but there is still serious functional regression, and that is unnecessary. There's really no excuse for functional regression, if you ask me. It deserves public censure.

  • antifud

    Ibout time. Zagat was crap, and all google ever had to do was simply link to yelp reviews and/or zagat reviews, or hell: both at the same time!

    the "we've gotten rid of yelp reviews, here's zagat!" aspect of maps was a completely annoying move.

    It encouraged people to go from "google the restaurant, find reviews" to "yelp the restaurant, find reviews". While any review should be considered with a grain of salt, zagat reviews should be put at the bottom of the pile.

  • JLishere

    Amazing. In the last 2 years, Google has either shut down or reversed nearly every single initiative originally championed by Marissa Mayer. The search UI, which she was responsible for over a decade, changed drastically in 2011 when Larry Page decided to empower designers (anyone remember her tests for 41 shades of blue?). Google Hotpot is gone as a standalone product. iGoogle, gone (now Marissa has her own portal: Yahoo). Latitude. And now Zagat (which she helped acquire). The new Google Maps for desktop and mobile are no longer showcasing the Zagat scores (which Marissa preferred), and they reverted to a 5-star rating.

    • didibus

      Man I hate Zagat scores though, why would you rate on such an ackward number to mentally model. Base 5, 10 and 100 are way better, my favortie being base 10, like IMDB ratings.

      • Thomas’

        Nope, a rating based on 1 to 10 is crappy. You get tons of 10, tons of 1 and some real reviews in-between. So the final scores calculates from your fanboy to hater ratio, grats!

        If you now include some science which states that people really can't use scales like this (too lazy to look up the paper right now), the only really useful rating system is either binary (thumb ups or down, because everybody can tell if he liked something or not) or even simpler unary (only thumb up). In latter case the pure amount of recommendations is important.

        It depends on the use case whether binary or unary is the better system.

        • didibus

          Well, fine with me, at least we both agree Zagat ratings sucks.

          On the other hand, IMDB scores have always served me well. Also, I don't see the difference between thumbs up and down, and saying that with a 10 base scale you only get 10s and 1s. It's basically saying base 10 sucks, because it only gives you as much info as binary would. I still think the few people giving proper scores would make it slightly more accurate a rating than only binary.

          I also think unary is very bad a system. The problem is unary can't properly be used to compare things together. If one movie has 10 likes, and another movie has 1 likes, it doesn't tell you which is better, just which one has had more "reviews". Now you could solve this by counting all Views of the movie that did not prompt a like a dislike, but that's obviously a false assumption.

          Binary is pretty good, I like binary. It works for many things. I still believe base 10 is also very good for some scenarios, like IMBD ratings. It also seems to me like it's really easy to convert a base 10 to a binary rating, but binary can't be converted to base 10, which to me indicates base 10 is just a more accurate system.

          • Thomas’

            Yes, unary systems are more for comparing the popularity of stuff, not their quality. If you mix it with decay over time, you get a really good rating system for trending items.

            And towards IMDB: i, for my part, really have trouble rating a movie using their system. When is a movie a 7, when a 8? It is quite difficult for me to get a "fair" system which is then different from anyone else's system. Also, when is a movie perfect (10) or completely crap (1)? So most of time i end up giving a 8 to 5 rating, using only 4 out of 10 grades...

          • didibus

            Decay over time? You mean something like comparing how many likes it got last month, compared to the following month? I guess, though a simple view count can do that too can't it?

            I feel unary likes are mostly used as a psychological motivator. When a site want to have people posting more and of better quality (in the sense of attracting viewership) they will put only a Up vote option. This way, nothing on the site can be perceived as bad. And the person who posted is feels rewarded every time someone "likes" his content.

            Hum, I get what you mean about IMDB, and I agree, but I still think that the average of everyone's review scores gives you more granularity. Like I've noticed movies above 8/10 are almost always great movies. While 7 to 8 on 10 are good, 4 to 6 is average, and depends on your tastes, below 4 is just universally bad and to be avoided. Obviously, the more total vote the more accurate it will be, because the average will do a better job at ironing out the extreme cases.

            So I'd say for things that have little reviews, like below 100, a binary might be best. But for things that get more than that, and especially those in the thousands and more reviews, a base 10 seems to give you more granularity.

  • cabbiebot

    "I'm willing to bet a hefty staff cut was on the menu, as well."

    Yup. Disappointing article about El Goog here from last month vis a vis Zagat employees: http://www.businessinsider.com/google-zagat-story-2013-6

    • Sir_Brizz

      Can we stop trying to adopt stupid Engadget company nicknames as the official way to describe companies? Does no one find it stupid that Apple is "Cupertino", Microsoft is "Redmond" and Google is not "Mountain View" but "El Goog"? Unnecessary blather.

      • HopelesslyFaithful

        i always get confused when people use those. Took me forever to see where cupertino came from -_- I thought though crapple was fairly good though

      • cabbiebot

        They're the Goog. So that's what you call them. You know, that or, uh, His Googness, or uh, Googlerola, or El Googlerino if you're not into the whole brevity thing.

        • Ror

          It's not that uncommon to hear people call it El Goog in the Bay Area anyways.

          • Sir_Brizz

            As far as I can tell, that originated from Engadget, though. So you basically have technohipster culture driving these really ridiculous names that don't even make sense to give companies. Good job.

          • Ror

            It's more of a pun on the local Spanish influence on names and things than it is an homage to whatever someone said on Engadget. El Cerrito, El Sobrante, El Camino, etc. It makes perfect sense.

          • NathanDrago

            I love the name "El Goog", and to be honest I really don't care where it came from. It's a more informal way of addressing Google. I could say the same about Big G, but still I prefer El Goog.

  • Mike

    I don't get the David Ruddock lame hatred mentality either. I mean the full dataset is available in Google's full offerings (integrated into Maps, G+ etc), kinda weird that's not mentioned, but then that destroys the hidden agenda.

  • Barnassey

    I bet in 2 or 3 years they will kill this app just like they did with google reader.

  • John Smith

    Maybe the limited number of cities is to encourage non-subscribers to subscribe and unlock all cities.

  • clay

    cool, austin is included. the city that wins at everything. i can keep using zagat

  • DJ SPY

    Is anyone getting tired of Google yet or is the Fanboyism still strong?

    • Lexster

      I'm really sick of that term. As if someone can only be a fan of one thing and one thing only. Because no one can be into products from more than one company! That's just silly!

  • Joya Blain

    whats going on !!!

  • dca1125

    I have written a review each night I return from dinner for years. And I've been able to remind myself where I ate in different cities. Now I don't have any idea how to add a review. Does anyone?

  • cmsbelt

    Google ruined Zagat. New site is terrible.

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