Russel Simmons

Yelp grows up

April 9, 2010: 5:25 PM ET

The site is making some changes, not to placate critics, but to prove they've been wrong all along.

By Paul Smalera, senior editor

Yelp co-founders Jeremy Stoppelman (left) and Russel Simmons (right)

"Some businesses are never going to be happy with a paradigm that allows customers to comment, or makes them have to have to earn their content," Vince Sollitto of Yelp tells me

It's hard to argue. As Yelp has grown from fledgling start-up to critical mass website, serving over 30 million visitors a month, it's biggest challenge hasn't been managing its huge and devoted online community, but rather caring for the relationships it has with the hundreds of thousands of businesses across North America whose listings appear on the social review website.

That problem reared its head as three lawsuits against the company have been filed in recent weeks, alleging Yelp engaged in extortion and fraud. The main arguments are that the company games ratings, then pressures businesses into buying advertising to salvage their online reputations. This week, Yelp made some changes to its site that seem to finally fix some of the biggest complaints business owners have about it. But, the company says, don't take that as a sign the company is capitulating to critics, or that they're right. More

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