Facebook tests star ratings for places

Facebook appears to be testing star ratings for places, similar to the system it uses for apps.

Some users are seeing a “rate these places” module in the sidebar with the option to give one to five stars to places they’ve been to or Liked. This feature could help Facebook better organize places in search or a new recommendation engine, as it has done with App Center.

[Update 10/30/12: Some users are seeing a version of the module that includes a short note about how a user is connected to the location. After users rate a place, the module refreshes with another location to rate.]

Facebook takes a unique approach to ratings to avoid manipulation. App ratings use random sampling rather than appearing on a static page that anyone can visit. This way, it is much more difficult to game the system and ratings are more reflective of how people feel about an app. Facebook seems to have done the same with places, but we’re waiting to hear back for confirmation.

The social network has a little-known location search feature that could rival Yelp or Google for business searches if the company decided to put resources toward developing it. Star ratings could be the start to an overhaul of the product, which would benefit from a mobile component.

Last month, a Bloomberg Businessweek article hinted that Facebook had a new review feature in the works:

During a meeting in a conference room near his desk, [VP of Engineering Mike] Schroepfer leads a group of engineers in a half-hour debate over the design of a restaurant review feature. Should it have a five-star rating option, a Like button, or both? Should there be animation? Does it feel natural? At the end of the meeting, Schroepfer and one other guy remain at odds over the Like vs. Stars question.

From what we’ve seen, pages still have Like buttons and the modules have stars, but it’s possible Facebook is testing different variations.

On place pages themselves, users can already leave “recommendations” in a module on the timeline. Facebook also tested a “favorite places” module in the sidebar last year. These units would show users two places they had checked into and ask “which place do you like better?” Users could click a “see your favorites” link in the module to see a ranked list of all the places they voted for, but this hasn’t been available for a year or so.

Thanks to Ryan Plant for the tip and the top screenshot.