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Could Instagram inspire the next Yelp?

Regardless of the politics surrounding the app, Yelp remains at the forefront of online and social location reviews. The platform has created something where users want to offer their content and engage, and even the more passive among us turn to the site for its reviews and recommendations.

Yelp has cornered this market for awhile now, edging out even flashier competitors like Foursquare (which has seen better days) and Gowalla (which saw better days, and was acquired by Facebook about two years ago). That doesn’t mean that challenges won’t rise up, however. Facebook intends to add a review button to Pages, and another surprising contender is just starting to peak at the possibilities of location suggestion: Instagram.

Not Instagram proper, mind you. The app itself is reportedly focusing on adding messaging as its next major feature. Instead, third party apps (for instance, Spots) are making use of Instagram’s API and its users’ love of bragging to create organic, visual maps of the best places to visit around you.

Skedadel launched recently, and with its simple UI and Instagram-like design, it’s been receiving positive buzz. The premise is simple: Skedadel takes your location, and then looks for Instagrams geo-tagged near you. You can search by category – like whether you’re looking for a cafe, a restaurant, or a store.

The recently updated Yello functions nearly identically – though it’s not an Instagram-searching app. But it does highlight the idea of creating more beautiful, personalized, creative reviews. While Yello will have a hard time gaining traction because of our “I don’t want another account”-itis, it’s pinpointing a possible trend shift in the social and online review space.

yello

Instagram has already proven itself as an app that can bring people together, and then some. The idea behind these apps is that users don’t necessarily want the cut and dry of Yelp – or any other site for the matter. While these more traditional review platforms are useful for already pinpointed searches (i.e., I know I want Mexican food and I’ll be downtown, so which is best and in my price range?), that isn’t the same as discovery. Discovery is more organic, the things you find along the way while you’re looking. Instagram is the epitome of “just looking;” how many of us spend idle time scrolling through the app, directionless, just wanting to see whatever’s there?

Discovery remains Instagram’s White Whale, and it almost seems like a choice on Instagram’s part not to add a more robust searching feature. Plenty of third party apps are making use of its relative absence.

We may be about to witness a battle over Instagram search, specifically as it applies to places. While those tapas might be Rise-filtered, the fact that an Instagrammer you trust and admire (because we know by now that IG rep and relationships are incredibly real and valuable) could be enough to send you in that direction. Plus, you want to take a cool photo of the tiled ceiling too.