Google Hotpot – The Hottest New Thing or Not so Hot?

November 19th, 2010


In what rapidly seems to be a “take this, take that” showdown between Google and Facebook, to see who can put out the next big thing, Google has released its “hotpot” (no capital letter) service. It works hand in hand with Google Places to create what Google calls more personal, relevant and trustworthy search results.

How well it works for you depends on how much you use hotpot. Hotpot tailors its recommendations “based on the places that you – and your friends – have rated highly.” Run a search for a product or service, and you can leave one- to five-star ratings on places where you eat, shop, etc. Then, the next time you sign on, hotpot will bring up more suggestions for places in your area in that category that you might wish to check out.

You might be wondering – and you wouldn’t be alone – what makes this all that different from other rating services such as Yelp or Foursquare? Actually, not much; in fact it seems like Google decided that if everybody else was going to have a local rating system, then they were, too.

To its credit, hotpot does have a very friendly User Interface. Suggested search results are presented in an easy-to-read grid pattern that is rather inviting and to the point.

Most initial response from SEO commentators and critics seems to be generally ambivalent. Vanessa Fox at comments that while hotpot in itself is no great shakes, “as part of a larger social and local combination, it could be very compelling.”

However, there are definitely some naysayers in the crowd.

Scott Gilbertson at calls hotpot “no Yelp killer,” while Ruud Hein at calls hotpot Google’s latest attempt to create community feedback where there is no community.

“I don’t know any ‘normal’ people who will flock to this service,” Hein says. He adds the value of hotpot comes from community feedback – you’re supposed to recommend it to friends, who become members too. Then you share rating information on various locations as you try them out. Unfortunately, Hein says, Google has no community to spread the word about hotpot. This is the same problem it had with the long-forgotten Google Wave and similar products.

PC Magazine writer John C. Dvorak is even more critical, going so far as to call hotpot “bullcrap”: “Google just started hotpot to gather more data to better understand its users (try to outguess you), and I’m sick of it.” He goes on to ask just how much personalized search the public needs.

Hein doubts that people can be coaxed to yet another site where they have to add friends in order to get any satisfaction out of it, as well. He says while hotpot “might make adding ratings and reviews a bit more inviting to some people, the vast majority of web users will post their comments on Facebook and Twitter.”

What do you think of hotpot? Will you use it? Or did Foursquare and the others beat Google to the punch this time?


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