The Washington Post reports that companies like Yelp, that provide reviews of restaurants and other places, have replaced the reputation-function of brands. That is, people are willing to try independent restaurants, based on online recommendations, rather than simply relying on general reputation, which big chain restaurants develop through advertising and ubiquity.
Before the Internet, it was risky to try some random independent restaurant, unless a friend recommended it personally. The restaurant could have terrible food, bad service, or make you sick. With Yelp and other sites, you can branch out, with the help of recommendations from dozens of users.
Score another point for the Internet and its ability to democratize innovation and help small businesses.