Will the Regulators C*ckblock a Google/Yelp Deal Before Yelp Gets Some?
Oh those cute little regulators, why start putting the smackdown on Google now? Mountain View no longer exists as a city, it's a living, breathing extension of the Internet complete with its own little Segway white blood cells, pretty soon Google tentacles will weasel their way up the coast and start populating San Francisco with little baby Google eggs and... OK, I'm getting carried away.
So here's the deal: Yelp lost relevance long ago because of its unique user base. I can tell you about them sometime but let's just say I'm a recovering Yelper so I know what sort of folks are drawn to the social networking angle of the review website. If you think it's about restaurants and star ratings you'd be wrong - at least in the San Francisco Yelp community, it's about getting wasted, showing everyone on Flickr your panties (not me, I won't name names but if anyone wants my Flickr address...), sleeping around, talking shit about your fellow Yelpers and, of course, the main goal is coming out first in the race to get the most attention. Yelpers are - generally speaking - self-centered, delusionally clever and obsessed with themselves. Many have questionable moral fortitude, the consequences of which seem to be exacerbated by Yelp's tendency to provide free booze at nearly every event (even Bay to Breakers, which, well, wasn't a "real" Yelp event). You do the math, they're greasing them up...
If Yelp can remove that angle and focus on the usefulness of its review system, it might have a chance. I could see why Google would be courting them, though I'm not really sure why regulators would be so interested in a potential Google/Yelp buyout.
An acquisition of Yelp could enhance Google's ability to connect advertisers with Internet users in search of local restaurants, shops and other establishments. However, Yelp also functions as a sort of search service, albeit more narrowly aimed at local businesses and users than Google's search engine. Any proposed deal may therefore draw interest from antitrust regulators.
"It should attract a serious review by the regulatory authorities, and I suspect that it will," said Samuel Miller, a San Francisco-based partner at the law firm Sidley Austin LLP. "Google has already been viewed and declared as dominant in the ad-search market; the FTC and the DOJ have recognized a narrow market definition for paid search, and I think they'll take a hard look at Google's attempt to acquire actual or potential competitors."
The antitrust regime put into place under President Barack Obama this year clearly has taken an interest in Google.
The Justice Department's antitrust chief, Christine Varney, was widely quoted at a 2008 panel discussion prior to her nomination as saying that Google presents antitrust concerns, because it "has acquired a monopoly" in online advertising.
Ya think, Justice Department? Way to stay on top of things as usual.
Yelp never competed with Google, in fact, clever bastards that they are integrated Google search into review searches and learned to dominate search rankings. So what? Did you think they were going to get piddly couple of million dollar capital infusions every couple of years and leave it at that? It's a miracle they've lasted this long.
Step back, DoJ. This is Yelp's only chance and if they blow it (or worse, if you do), the website is doomed to be little more than Adult Friend Finder with booze and a chat function. Yelp should never be considered a Google "competitor", nor do I believe this move is meant to take down a potential rival in the massive search market. Come on, Google knows how large its balls are, it doesn't need scraps like Yelp to solidify its world domination scheme.
Pffft. Congratulations Jeremy and crew, I'll buy you a beer at that ratty joint in the FiDi that Nish likes so much if you bastards pull this one off.