There are various yellow pages/listings/reviews sites that UK users can visit, such as Trusted Places, Sheriffratings, Brownbook or YourLocalLondon and Yelp is the newest of them. It's a resource that's been around in the US for a long time and has a good following, and now it's opened up over here.
The concept is simple - you need a plumber, so just search for one in your area, and Yelp will pop up answers for you - complete with contact details and location on a Google map. Well, it will if you're lucky. A search for Jessops - a well known camera company - didn't give me any results at all, when I know for a fact that there are several close to where I live. A broader search for 'camera' lead to the first result being a Cheesecake shop; odd until you realise the word 'camera' is in the review. Not the best approach however. A search for 'Whittards' in Chelmsford - no results. A search for 'bookshop' gives me some results but also annoyingly 'did you mean cookshop?' Moreover, it then doesn't list any of the several bookshops in the area that I'm aware of.
This is poor at best, and it's not getting any better. The results are displayed perfectly acceptably, and there are options available to filter results. I'm aware that it's very early days yet, but if it's not possible to arrange results by # of reviews or highest rated I'd rather the site told me that, instead of pretending it had done so when clearly it hadn't; a pause, refresh and display of the same results in the same order isn't fooling anyone.
You can write your own reviews of course, and that's the fun of the site - you can finally get your own back on the shop that gave such poor service, or praise that pub to the heavens for the fantastic lunch they provided. In order to do that however, you've got to register. If you register you get asked for your location, and that then becomes fixed. When I go to the site I go to the .co.uk address, but with /chelmsford-ess on the end. I suspect it's an attempt to look cute, but really - it isn't. What it is, is annoying, because I then can't get back to the base URL, which makes it harder for me to link to in a posting like this. Sure I can do it, and have done, and it's not a big issue in and of itself, but what I don't like is the assumption that the site knows better than I do as to what I want. It doesn't, and I'm not happy with sites that try and force me to do things that I don't want to.
There is a forum where 'yelpers' (which to be honest sounds like a dog that has just had it's tail stepped on) can discuss whatever they like - this is supposed to be the social element of the site I suppose. Again, early days and I'm sure it's something that will take off, but North V South London and United V Chelsea don't exactly inspire.
I've no doubt that Yelp will do well - the concept is well proven and they're successful in the US. I'll certainly come back and look at them again, but until I can have some level of confidence in their results, it's not a site that I'll be using myself.