Google Places, the online directory of businesses around the world, has been entirely replaced by a new feature, Google+ Local. As of April 30, 2012 roughly 80 million Google Place pages worldwide have been automatically converted into 80 million Google+ Local pages. It’s a dramatic change though it will undoubtedly disorient some users and business owners.
Google+ now contains a “Local” tab and static Google Places pages now give way to more dynamic Google+ Local pages. The Zagat 30-point rating scale is also replacing Google’s star ratings. Users will be able to discover the new Google+ Local pages in several ways: through a search on Google.com or Google Maps, in mobile apps or through a search on Google+.
Google+ Local pages are much more visually interesting. They also enable the presentation of a wider variety of information types than Google Places allowed. They will permit local businesses to develop followers and message them, and to have the kinds of social interactions now available on Facebook and Twitter. As a result, Google+ becomes another local search destination within Google, arguably with richer content and more functionality than Google.com offers at the results page level.
The conversion of Google Places pages to Google+ Local pages is taking place regardless of whether Places pages were claimed by business owners or not.
Google says there will be many more merchant features to come.