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Yelp: Yet another 'secret algorithm' wending its way through our daily lives

February 11, 2009 | 12:40 pm

Yelpfounders The Times' David Lazarus takes a look at the workings of Yelp, the review site that some restaurant owners say is unusually aggressive in trying to get businesses to pay hundreds of dollars in monthly "sponsorship" fees to improve their ranking in search results and to move their most positive review to the top of the page.

My feeling is that Yelp offers an impressive service for both consumers and merchants, but the site could do a better job on the transparency front.

How many users, for example, know what it means when a company is identified as a "Yelp sponsor"? How many people know that a business has to pay to have a "favorite review" topping the list?

Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman said there's a secret algorithm at work, resulting in occasionally scattershot placement of reviews rather than, say, chronological order.

Read more here.

Photo of Yelp founders Russel Simmons, left, and Jeremy Stoppelman outside the company's San Francisco offices in 2006. Credit: Los Angeles Times.