Google is grabbing headlines left, right and center today with a bunch of new Googley stuff announced.
In addition to real time results and a new visual search feature, Google is (snail) mailing a bunch of barcodes to businesses across the US, branding them "favorite places." Smartphones equipped with specific apps and a camera will be able to scan the decals, linking directly to the business' page in Google Local Business Center. The slightly Yelp-like feature should be a great thing for non-chain businesses, who rely more on word of mouth to provide foot traffic.
The program is obviously opt-in, and businesses with a lame rating might choose not to participate. But a mere 3,700 places were selected in my local area (New York City), which is pretty selective considering the high volume of restaurants, bars, clubs and "massage parlors" based here. Businesses participating in Google's Local Business Center can also offer mobile coupons, a really attractive incentive more businesses should get off their asses and implement.
Notable people like Moby, Cynthia Rowley, and Regis and Kelly have commented on the NYC places, and it wouldn't be a new Google thing without a flashy YouTube video: