In 2004, business school student Jeremy Stoppelman fell ill and needed a great doctor. When he realized he didn’t know how to find one, Yelp was born.
This October marks 15 years since Yelp was launched to help people discover and connect with great local businesses. As we celebrate this milestone, we wanted to look back at the biggest trends we’ve spotted over the years. Throughout these fifteen years, the Yelp community has encompassed millions of businesses, hundreds of millions of people, and tens of billions of connections between them — including people seeking great local doctors, restaurants, trainers, baristas, and more. Over and over again, they’ve found what they’re looking for, and publicly thanked businesses across the country— expressing over 40 million words of gratitude in reviews. We’re thankful to all of you in our Yelp community for helping consumers — from local neighbors to out-of-town visitors — decide how to spend their money and time, and we’re dedicating Yelp’s anniversary celebration to the words of love and gratitude you shared about your favorite local businesses.
All of those reviews— nearly 200 million—also add up to a mountain of fascinating data, full of stories about consumer preferences, the local economy, and the people and businesses who make it vibrant. We’re celebrating our anniversary by attempting to climb the mountain and share what we see: how our language has changed with the rise of mobile and social media, when beauty fads have peaked and faded, and which city loves “pimento cheese.” We’re providing peeks at some of our favorite findings in this blog post, with much more on yelp15.com.
What gets a company to its quinceanero and beyond also makes the lives of the company’s data scientists interesting, especially when looking back to the beginning. We’re much bigger than we were in 2004, and we’ve steadily upgraded features while adding new ones: the ability to request a quote or to join a popular restaurant’s waitlist remotely. Every change creates new or changed data series. So for this project, we paid lots of attention to our stable core: your reviews and searches on Yelp, which paint a picture of what we were into, when, and where.
Among our findings:
- While Mexican and New American restaurants have persisted near the top of mind when people are hungry, American tastes have shifted in response to global flavor influences, leading to unusually high interest in maki rolls in 2014, mochi ice cream in 2016, and sushi burritos in 2018.
- In our early years, reviewers mentioned their Blackberrys and Razrs; now our vocabulary has shifted to iPhones, and from “uber” as an adverb to “Uber” the verb and noun. Our reviewers’ word choices add up to uber cool indicators of how language has evolved online.
- Every city loves pizza, but plenty sets our nation’s biggest metros apart. We pulled out local reviewers’ top words and phrases, relative to the national average, to find that pimento cheese is huge in Atlanta, while Seattle’s really into teriyaki and congee. Baltimore is crab-obsessed, Ethiopian food is huge in Washington, D.C., and Houstonians love their kolaches.
- In every state, people need help with their homes. In Florida, that’s unusually likely to mean pool help; Hawaiians are particularly prone to seeking help installing and cleaning solar panels.
- People love expressing their love and gratitude publicly in Yelp reviews: To dog walkers, who are the most loved category of businesses; to bakeries, which “save the day” more often than any other type of food business; and to florists, who are more likely to make people’s day than any other service pro
Thanks for the 15 years of love you’ve shown: to great local businesses you’re grateful to, and for helping each other discover great local businesses. We can’t wait to find out what we’ll learn in the next 15 years.
—Graphics by The DataFace.