Yelp and Google Places offer competing versions of the same service, as do their APIs. I created the Places Mapper to be able to compare the two. It borrows the same interface as the Yelp Mapper. One difference is that the Yelp API uses text-based searches, while the Places API lets you use their taxonomy of types of businesses. So, you are limited to Google’s choice of what types of places are available, but the results are more accurate. It’s similar to the Metro Places app, but of course you aren’t limited to searching near Metro stations; the entire map is used as the bounds for the search. The API doesn’t return more than 20 results, so if the map covers too large an area, not all relevant places will be returned.

One difference between the two mapping program is how icons are chosen. The Yelp API doesn’t include icon info, so I had to manually assign generic icons to the most-popular results. The Google Places API does include icon info, but those icons are often the generic “square in a box” image.

The Yelp & Places APIs are a great way to access a large database of up-to-date business information. But another option is to use a “curated” map, like the one I did for bike shops in Washington, DC and Arlington, VA, the Bike Shops and Beyond map. Because its data is updated only periodically, it quickly falls out of date, but as long as the data is fresh it returns more useful results. You can use URL paramters to quickly compare with the other tools: yelp.html?biz=bike and places.html?biz=bicycle_store.

Mapping the Google Places API

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