The guides are members of the Maps community that review and posts pictures of businesses to pass on to others. In return, they get certain perks, like early access to newer features, local meetups and free or discounted Google services.
Guides were created as a response to Yelp and its own reviewers. By following a guide, that person’s reviews will be viewable in Maps in a section called “For You.”
The program will be tested in San Francisco, Osaka, New York, Mexico City, Bangkok, Delhi, London, São Paulo and Tokyo.
The move shows that Google wants to take on Facebook in the area of discovering new places as well as a new way for businesses and customers to interact. Google recently introduced a follow feature for businesses as well. The company also launched a number of tools for businesses to allow them to create profiles and send offers to customers, as well as a short URL.
The focus so far, however, has been for Google to connect people and businesses. Because there’s no barrier to entry on being a guide, the content can be fairly mixed in terms of quality. Google seems to be paying more attention to engagement than quality of reviews. Some may even just be a few words that say something like, “Eat here,” or “I love this place!”
Google said the recommendation feature is going to focus more on photos than words. Most of the reviews in the “For You” tab are going to be in the form of photo collections, which then need to be clicked on in order to read something a guide wrote.
Google didn’t specify when the feature would actually launch in the test cities; the company only said it would happen soon.