Yesterday evening, Google announced their new service, Hotpot, a mashup that combines social media with local info and check-in services. This marks yet another surge forward in the local arena that Google has made recently, along with the deployment of Google Place Search, launch of Google Tags and Boost ads, and more.
I haven’t kicked the tires yet on Hotpot via mobile, but I can see the services it offers via web:
Hotpot encourages you to rate businesses, and connect with your friends to get recommendations for places to try out.
While the service appears fairly robust and graphically well-designed, it’s unclear to me so far just how much traction it may get.
Google thus far has not been all that successful in their social media plays. This service is obviously intended to compete with Yelp and Facebook, and perhaps to a lesser degree with Foursquare, and even other internet yellow pages services — all of which have already developed some degree of audience share.
(There’s apparently been some push and pull between Google and Yelp over the past year or so, as Yelp has at first pulled out of having reviews info distributed into Google Place pages and then ultimately agreeing to a new deal and having limited review info added into Google business listings. It’s appeared that Google has shared some upcoming plans with Yelp, such as the deployment of Google Place Search, the new local search results design. So, if Google shared their Hotpot plans with Yelp beforehand, I’d guess that Yelp must not consider Hotpot to be all that much of a threat in order for them to continue distribution of their content with Google!)
What’s missing with Hotpot so far appears to be some compelling draws to attract people into using the service. Yelp’s developed community is pretty loyal, so what would attract them to switch, and Facebook would appear to have an advantage in that our friends are already present and interacting in that environment — so, why would we move them, or attempt to draw them over into Hotpot to share reviews with us? As for Foursquare, Google Hotpot doesn’t have the elements of game play and reward that Foursquare has — so, they’re lacking that attractive element as well.
So, my take so far is that Google Hotpot will need to do some substantial promotions in order to develop out the usership necessary to really make this service effective or to make it a serious threat to the other local services and apps that are already established in the market.