May 30, 2012 (12:05 PM EDT)
Google+ Local Does More Than Google Places

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Continuing its effort to augment its services with social capabilities, Google on Wednesday introduced Google+ Local, the result of crossbreeding between Google Places and Google+.

For the past few years, social, local, and mobile have been areas of intense interest among technology companies and venture capital investors. Google has become a mobile powerhouse, thanks to Android, and has invested heavily in location data through Google Maps and related services such as Google Places.

Google hasn't done as well with social data, at least compared to Facebook. And that explains its crusade to make Google+ inescapable across its services. By wedding Google+ to services that people actually want to use, Google hopes to make its social network more vibrant and vital.

Google+ Local replaces Google Places pages, the listings by which businesses are represented in Search and Maps. Business owners who use Google Places for Business can still access their Google Places page and dashboard. But their consumer-facing Place information now appears in the context of a Google+ Local page.

[ Read Google Maps Listings Marred By False Information. ]

Google+ has gained a Local tab on the left-hand navigation bar. In addition, Google+ Local is integrated into Search, Maps, and mobile, fulfilling goals Google VP of consumer products Marissa Mayer outlined a year ago.

To make Google+ Local work without borrowing third-party content from the likes of Yelp, Google is relying on restaurant reviews it acquired through its purchase of Zagat last year.

Google director of product management Avni Shah said Google is using Zagat's reviews to improve access to quality local information. "Each place you see in Google+ Local will now be scored using Zagat's 30-point scale, which tells you all about the various aspects of a place so you can make the best decisions," she said in a blog post.

Businesses concerned that they will have to babysit separately Google+ Pages, for general business information, and Google+ Local pages, for location-oriented business information, might see that burden diminish over time.

Google VP of engineering Jen Fitzpatrick said, "we'll soon extend these social experiences to more local Google+ pages in the weeks and months ahead."

In other words, business identities on Google can be expected to become more unified across different Google services such as Search, Maps, and mobile.

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