People are abuzz about Google's "Near Me Now" link on its mobile homepage. This was demo'd at Google's Search Evolution event several weeks ago. Many bloggers have added inflammatory headlines suggesting this is a "Yelp Killer" and the like.
First, it's not a Yelp killer and it's not new. It's really the "escalation" of something that Google's been doing for some time.
In March, 2008 Google created what it called "LCB", which experimented with a category-based browse interface. Location was manually set. A year or so later, in June 2009, Google created the Android Places Directory app. It was a much more polished version of LCB and still exists. It similarly emphasized browsing but used built-in location to avoid the need to enter that manually.
Then in September, Google turned the "local" tab into a browse interface:
Now this has been elevated and refined with the new "New Me Now" home page link:
The prominece of this on the Google homepage does represent a major challenge to all the no-name local apps that have limited consumer awareness. It's not going to kill Yelp. However it could well negatively impact yellow pages app usage if those apps are not upgraded and enhanced.