When looking for a new spot to eat or shop, I tend to turn to Yelp (controversy aside) more than to other business rating sites. But I could be missing crucial comments made by someone outside of Yelp.
Happily, I just checked out a cool service that displays ratings from around the Web at a single glance. The browser add-on Palore aggregates business reviews from a variety of Web sites and displays them next to Google and Yahoo's local search results in Firefox and Internet Explorer.
Currently Palore has data for some 2.4 million businesses in big cities and it draws reviews from Zagat, OpenRatings, CoffeeList, WineSpectator, Judy's Book, as well as menus from MenuPages. Plus, you'll see ratings from Google and Yahoo Local on the map. Unfortunately, its pop ups don't display the reviews that Google and Yahoo's pop-ups show. And as Palore is still being built, it's missing ratings for most U.S. businesses; restaurants remain the strong point for now.
Icons such as a wine glass, coffee bean, menu, wheelchair, stars, dollar signs, and even a heart for dating spots, indicate the ratings available. Just click an icon and a Palore bubble pops up more details and links. Palore is also touting its capability to flag green businesses. A carrot icon shows eateries with meat-free and organic options rated by LocalHarvest and HappyCow, and the Fair Trade symbol indicates a thumbs-up from TransFair USA. There's a Kosher symbol, too. It would be cool if Palore also drew data from green business ratings services such as Alonovo, Five Limes and Sustainlane. Sure, Google and Yahoo compile reviews from various sites, but Palore's icons tell you something before you click (although I wonder how long it will take big search engines to add what Palore is doing, rendering it unnecessary).
Plus, once Palore shares that a restaurant got high marks from, say, both Zagat and WineSpectator, it lets you click the phone number and dial from within the browser. Voila, dinner is reserved. You get one half-hour of free calls each day via Palore's integrated VoIP service.
Palore is free and free of ads, and the download was quick in my tests. Although it remains in beta testing, I didn't run into operational glitches. However, dear Palore people, please don't send my username and password via e-mail in clear type. Dear reader, as long as Palore commits this security no-no, you should set up an account with a fluffy password that you don't use for your banking Web site or e-mail account.