Yelp Liberates Its API To Box Out Foursquare And Google

Yelp wants as many inroads and reminders for its service around the web as possible, so today it upped the limit on its API for pulling nearby places, ratings, and photos from 100 calls a day to 25,000 without the need for pre-approval. By freeing up usage of its API, Yelp becomes more appealing to developers looking to help people discover local businesses, and could persuade them to use its database instead of Foursquare or Google Places which were much more openly available until now.

Yelp also revamped its developer site today to make documentation for integrating its API easier.

Screen Shot 2014-07-15 at 12.37.20 PM

“Historically, Yelp has been pretty closely guarded as a data set,” Yelp’s VP of Business Development Mike Ghaffary tells me. It’s understandable why. When Yelp was smaller, it likely worried another service could scrape all its reviews to jumpstart their database and then leapfrog Yelp. Google Places tried to do just that, stealing Yelp reviews and displaying them without attribution back in 2011. The two companies still don’t get along.

But now Ghaffary says Yelp is opening up more and more because “we want to get the most useful local information to as many users as possible.” It’s now the king of full-length restaurant reviews in many locales, so it’s not worried about being beaten. Still, competition from other services could peck away at Yelp’s traffic, so it wants to stay top of mine.

Yelp’s data already powers apps for Apple, Yahoo, BMW, Lexus, Mercedes, Pebble, and thousands of startups. With the higher 25,000 call limit and more API usage available upon request, it’s hoping more companies will jack into what Ghaffary calls “the crown jewel data set in local.”

Previously, Yelp’s 100 call limit for unapproved developers looked oppressive compared to its competitors. Foursquare has a 5,000 calls per hour limit before approval, while Google Places has a free 100,000 calls per day limit if you’ve registered a credit card. Upping its limit makes Yelp easier to experiment with and integrate.

Getting more apps showing Yelp reviews helps the company convince businesses it’s important to court positive ones. The click-backs that API integrations generate could get more people viewing Yelp’s ads, too. And most importantly, seeing Yelp around the web reminds people to come straight to it when it’s time to find a great restaurant, dentist, or masseuse. With increasing competition from Facebook, MyTime, Foursquare, Google, and more, Yelp needs this visibility more than ever.