F1rst = Yelp!, Caribbean Edition

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As the internet makes moves to become more all encompassing of the world, regardless of access, we are seeing sites pop up to cater to every need. In particular there are sites that connect you to others based on your experiences in physical places via reviews of these locations. In the US, we have the ever popular Yelp! that plays a substantial role in the popularity of restaurants, venues, hotels, and shops. Allowing users to connect through Facebook and create an account to review all the places they’ve gone to. It allows us the ability to be incredibly honest about our experiences and connect with others that we know or who read our reviews.

Well now the Caribbean has their own version of Yelp!, called F1rst. With the ease of Yelp!, F1rst allows users to save time and money finding locations suited to their needs. Reviews help them choose the locations, and photographs help map out the experience. F1rst allows tourists a views into the hot spots, students to stay connected with their social group, and families to choose new experiences based on their preferences. It takes the guessing work out of the game. The site functions almost entirely like Yelp! with the exception that it aims to solely be for the Caribbean but has a couple locations in the US right on their front page (Institute of Chicago, Starbucks in NJ, etc.). The website is rather user friendly, easy to navigate, and functions entirely in English, and like Yelp! provides Badges to users who are very active on the site.

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In many ways, F1rst seems to be a copy of Yelp!, but upon further inspection, we see that what it truly does is provide this service to an area that had long been neglected. Yelp! caters internationally in Europe and South America on top of the US, but entirely neglects the Caribbean, which is what makes F1rst different. It fills that gap and allows Antilleans a cyber community built upon a physical one. It allows you to Search, Discover, Connect and Share in a way that follows the model of Yelp!.

But I think it’s important to note that there was this are that Yelp! didn’t serve which may be true of many sites here. Once again a system is being built online that caters to the wealthiest core countries of the world, leaving areas like the Caribbean to be forgotten or deal with this inequality on their own. We can claim access as the reason for this lack of coverage, but in fact the Caribbean is developing and incorporating the use of internet technology just like the rest of the world. The fact that F1rst exists can speak to the fact that other major sites forget about the Antilles entirely when developing. That doesn’t mean that F1rst doesn’t serve a greater purpose though, it allows the Caribbean to connect and define who they are and what they include, making this a very exclusive site.

IN RESPONSE to your comments, I very much agree that this site seems to cater more to tourists but I will argue that the younger crowd of locals is also very interested in this site. Considering that there is more work to be done in regards to the addition of more venues and locales, there is activity that suggest both audiences are involved. Tourists seem to be the most active in commenting and rating, while locals are using the site to make connections and to collect badges. As for capitalist side of this operation, Businesses are able to use F1rst for advertising such as showing up first in searches, but having their locale/venue on the site is free.  Advertising is at a cost to them. Both the Businesses and the customers have the option to add the business or venue, it’s just a matter of doing it.

7 comments

  1. Jamal, thanks for highttp://commons.gc.cuny.edu/members/nferguson/hlighting that there is a predominance of regional users on this site. I think that when we have the conversation about tourism in the Caribbean. We tend to use the old model of power and dominance, focusing of the significant contribution of white tourist from Europe and the U.S. I think it would be interesting to see n in depth analysis of regional tourism in the Caribbean.

  2. I, too, hope this site grows to include local opinions. Food places and little venues on the countryside are hidden gems that a lot of tourists would love to attend and discover. I wonder how the locals would feel about this though? I wonder if the people living in the countries have an understanding of where they could go to be away from tourists, where things are usually a bit more expensive, and where they can just be in their element. I wonder if they are bothered by the constant presence of tourists because the Caribbean is truly a hub for people who come to vacation and relax on beaches. Would they want their hidden gems discovered by adding their opinions?

  3. I almost forgot …. I would argue that the majority of F1rst’s users are domestic tourist i.e. visitors from other Caribbean countries.

  4. Can I say that when I discovered this website (as a result of having to do this assignment) I was totally impressed and excited that this exists within the region. I have many friends who still live in T&T and never was F1rst mentioned to me before. I thought to myself, “This is evidence of the progress in technology the Caribbean is making and a sign of many more to come”. It’s no secret that historically the region has been behind the curve in areas like this so it’s good to know that its catching up. I find it interesting however that, like you said Lusely, Yelp! neglects the Caribbean but F1rst welcomes American businesses.

  5. great questions Margaret! I can’t believe i didn’t mention them at all. business are able to use F1rst for advertising such as showing up first in searches, but having their business on the site is free. local spots and customers have the option to add the business or venue, it’s just a matter of doing it. this may speak to the slower pace of things in antilles, including the slower rate of incorporating technology.
    that being said, Naia, the site is for both tourists and natives as i mentioned in my blog. although tourists seem to be the most active in commenting & rating, native users are using the site for connections and badge collecting.

  6. It would be interesting to know if the businesses included on f1rst have to pay a fee for their listings. One of the best experiences I had in Jamaica was when I spent the entire trip being driven by a local cab driver. I had some of the best food and hit tourist spots that I would never have dreamed of. Like Naia, I hope as the site grows it will include more local opinions (if it doesn’t already).

  7. I was somehow waiting for the connection between the name and the point you brought up about it being the one site that serves to cover areas that Yelp! neglects to cover… if it is, indeed, the only one. Perhaps there are other, maybe smaller sites? And I still wonder who exactly it’s for (tourists vs. natives) and who’s mostly rating and commenting on different venues and businesses…

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