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What is Google Hotpot?

rate places with google hotpotThink of it this way – As we travel through a new type of landscape we are guided by signs as always. But the source of the signs and information is much different. Travelers are creating the guidelines and providing directions for the inquiring traveler. This is what happens with Google Profile. Users rate/review businesses, restaurants and service providers based on their experience.

If you are in a neighborhood that is popular with you and your circle of friends you can use Hotpot to find restaurants, bookstores, business offices etc. that will include the locations that are popular with your friends.

Here’s the recipe:

Add an ingredient with a decidedly local flavor to an icon of the Internet world and what do you get? Google Hotpot, a new dish that is seemingly a combination of Places and Profiles. What does this new menu item do for us, the user?

It helps us find local destinations, like businesses and restaurants.

This creates a large database of information in Places, of course. But it also helps the Internet behemoth with another task – making suggestions to users in the future. Add the “friend” touch and you have a referral and suggested destination business model called Hotpot that guides you to physical locations in your area.

How it Looks

A quick look reveals an uncluttered, almost simplistic, design – just what you would expect from Google. Hey, it works!!

Sign in and start rating, that’s all there is to it.

Google hotpot

Obviously, you can do your rating and searching on your computer. But these actions are also available on the Android 1.6+ phone with the Google Maps 4.7 update.

At this point the emphasis is on good places to eat and drink – you know, restaurants and cafes. But Google Hotpot isn’t limited to consumption of food and beverages. Users can review any retail site, schools, libraries, even a nice park for a bit of quality time outdoors. A recent count by Google indicated that users have already placed millions of reviews on the service.

For example, one of the icons of Southern Illinois and the St. Louis Metro-East area is the Brooks Catsup bottle. This huge landmark is atop a tower in the town of Collinsville. Want to find this unusual site? It’s on Google Hotpot, complete with a color photograph and address.

Simply click on the number next to the average rating (five star system) and you can read the individual comments and reviews. Choose the business name – the live link at the top – and you are taken to a page with a map, address and review information. You may even get another photo.

Why Hotpot Now?

Most of the early reviews of Hotpot emphasize that this is a way for Google to take on such social sites as Facebook, Yelp and others. The focus is local. But there is supposed to be a significant difference with Hotpot. Reviews and information come only from people that are brought into your network.

The product manager for Google wrote, “With Hotpot, we’re making local search results for places on Google more personal, relevant and trustworthy.”

The idea is not particularly cutting-edge because there are several other ways to connect with friends and recommend places to spend time and money. For example, a user can select Yelp for the closest city and find all sorts of information about restaurants and other businesses.

But This is Google!

google local mobileThat will capture a lot of attention. Throw in the Android access and Google Hotpot is coming into this market at a time when the Internet and World Wide Web are about “apps,” not searching. We are gradually moving into an electronic world that won’t require much searching. Some say we are there already.

We mentioned the key word “local” a bit earlier but we should have mentioned another key word in this scenario – “social.”

Social networking is far from new. In fact, we could argue that the Internet and the Web have been “social” for years. But with Hotpot, the world’s fastest-growing company, Google, is making a statement – We are more social. We are more local.

As one Hotpot review stated, this is the way things work now.

The Google LatLong Blog says Hotpot makes about 50 million locations available, as indicated on Google Places. Users step into the process to share their recommendations with friends, based on individual tastes and interests. When the iPhone Places app comes online Hotpot will add thousands more mobile users.

If all of this doesn’t seem earth-shaking, consider the one ingredient Google has that even the other social platforms don’t have. It’s called “consumer reach,” according to

Does this mean that Yelp and Foursquare will gradually wither and die on the vine? Probably not, at least for the very near future. But it is possible that Google Hotpot could be the killer app when it comes to navigating the local scene.

On a technical basis, Hotpot is, for the most part, a free-standing service. But if Google and its users decide to do some serious “mashing” and combining, Google Hotpot might stand next to “GPS” as the way to find your way around.

The merging of services hasn’t happened yet. Users still have to work with Hotpot on its own turf. But this will probably change sooner rather than later.

Some veteran industry observers are less than enamored of Google Hotpot. It’s nothing new or particularly useful, they say. What will the world say?

Stay tuned.