Google: There Have To Be Yelps In The World, But…

Today during our Social Currency CrunchUp, Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman and John Hanke, a Google VP of Product Management, took the stage. Given that the two companies seem to be at odds with one another recently (following a failed acquisition), it was a little tense.

Specifically, Google’s strong moves into local with their new Places push seem to be going right at Yelp’s core. Sure’s it’s potentially about more than just local venue reviews, but that’s a huge part of it. And that’s what Yelp is all about.

Moreover, Google is using Yelp data to bulk up their Places offering. Yelp can’t like that too much. In fact, we’ve heard they’re particularly unhappy because they used to have a deal with Google for this data, but they pulled out of that deal a couple years ago. But Google decided to use Yelp’s data anyway simply by crawling it. Yelp can’t stop them from doing that unless they want to delist themselves from Google — a move which could kill them.

On stage, Stoppelman acknowledged that Yelp used to have such a deal with Google. When moderator Erick Schonfeld asked if Google was now getting that data by crawling the pages, Hanke responded with “Look…” This drew some laughs from the audience.

But Hanke continued by saying that “there have to be Yelps in the world.” What he means is that Google needs these type of services to be able to point users to them. Of course, Stoppelman argues that while Google used to point users to services like his, they’re moving towards showing that data on their own pages. He believes that Google no longer likes sending large amounts of data to huge sites.

Hanke said that statement wasn’t fair. “We look at what people want,” he said. Google is trying to understand Places better — if Yelp has the best content, we’ll show that, he said. He asked if Google knows what information a user is trying to get at, shouldn’t they show it? “Should we pretend we don’t know what they’re really looking for?

Stoppelman’s said he understands that argument but believes that if Yelp does have the best content, Google should give people a way to get there as fast as possible.

Basically, agree to disagree.

When Schonfeld asked about the failed acquisition, Stoppelman coyly noted “It’s complicated.” The audience liked that. He caught himself though, “…whatever may have happened.

Hanke acknowledged the tension between the two companies. But again, he said it’s all about doing what’s best for the users.

Yeah, expect that tension to continue.