Google Places is dead, long live Google+ Local. The inevitable has happened, Google is killing off Places and replacing it entirely with the new Google+ Local. The change may seem major, and it is from several points of view, but the content will stay the same, it's just the location that's new.
It's an obvious change as well, Places was never a destination and most users never knew it was a separate product and not just a feature of Search/Maps.
With the new Local section, visible now to all Google+ users, people will know exactly what the feature is.
The brilliant thing about it, at least for Google, is that all existing Place pages, all 80 million of them have been automatically converted into Google+ pages for those places.
In an instant, millions of businesses that were not on Google+ are. The increased visibility will mean that more businesses are aware of the feature and the need to manage their places.
What's more, more businesses will also feel compelled to manage the pages since they're integrated into Google+ and not just some obscure Google feature.
There are some differences from the old place pages, the new Local pages include Zagat reviews and ratings as well as the 30-point Zagat rating score.
The move has several obvious advantages. For one, businesses will be able to manage their Google+ pages and place pages from the same place since they'll be the same thing. What's more, the Google+ network should improve the visibility of those places.
The social nature of the site should help a lot too. For one, people will be a lot more inclined to write reviews, since they'll be simple Google+ posts. They'll be able to find relevant reviews easier since they'll be able to search within their circles.
But it's a good thing for Google+ as well, it's a huge boost content wise, and it's a new feature unique to the social network.