Google Places And HotPot Merge Into One Streamlined Service

April 19th, 2011 by Search Influence Alumni

When Google introduced HotPot, the Foursquaresque recommendation engine based on social results, it was hailed as a seamless integration of Yelp-style reviews and uniquely Google functionality. We’ve already discussed its simple ethos of personalized recommendations based on friends’ and peers’ reviews, furthering the “social results are relevant results” direction that the company seems to be heading in. HotPot’s paper showings were a resounding success, moving the reviews coming in from Google users from a mere 3 percent to 20 (as opposed to second-hand aggregated reviews from Yelp and its army of clones). However, the G-team has recently announced the merger of HotPot into Places. Is this a smart move on Google’s part? What kind of practical changes are we likely to see?

The popular HotPot app, which featured “check-in” functionality, will be folded in to the extant Places app. Additionally, the Places interface (both mobile and full web versions) are reorganized, with HotPot ratings available alongside objective geographic information. (The original HotPot UI required a click-through from the review screen in order to display this data.) Other than that… well, not much. While there is something to be said for a unique socially-focused review engine, as far as Google is concerned less is more. However, the Places app has undergone a slick expansion to allow for on-the-go rating.

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My personal gut reaction to this decision is that it is a positive move to eliminate functional redundancy. While HotPot has helped bring in first-hand reviews directly from Google users, the service itself never really took off the way that Places (or HotPot’s more cosmetically similar cousin Foursquare) has. Integrating location-based reviews and functionality directly into Places pages can only make things simpler for both businessowners and users, who already have quite enough to deal with in Google Tags, Boost, Buzz, Maps, and Latitude — just to name a few. While making business presence known online is integrally important in the contemporary marketplace. However, the layers upon layers of features Google has added, while useful for discrete and specific purposes, can undoubtedly appear overly complex and confusing to a business owner who simply wants to make themselves available online without suffering the visibility implications of not chasing after the newest in the seemingly ceaseless succession of new features rolled out in front of them. Furthermore, establishing a direct link between an online “home base” and reviews of the business is a way for users, businessowners and reviewers to seamlessly get the information they need or add to the discussion with ease.