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Google has launched a new recommendation and rating tool galled Hotpot for Google Places, which is sure to give stiff competition to other local listings sites such as Yelp and Qype.

Hotpot allows users to give personalised reviews and recommendations for various venues listed on Google Places. The users’ friends can then view the reviews and also share their own opinions about those Places.

Places reviewed on Google Hotpot

Based on the ratings and reviews that a user and his friends give, Hotpot will recommend other places, which they expect the user to be interested in.

Google Hotpot has not yet been integrated with other Google services such as Gmail, Buzz or the social friends list, so users not only have to create a separate profile for themselves, they also have to re-enter their list of friends. Moreover, each friend has to be added separately, as there is no option to enter all the friends together in one go. Each friend also needs to reconfirm that he or she is willing to be on the friend list of that user.

The reviews that users or their friends add on Hotpot are accessible to the public. However, the user has the option to use a different name or photo on this profile, so as to remain anonymous.

Hotpot can be accessed by clicking on the ratings in any Google Places listing. Once users finalise their profile and friend list, they can put up reviews about several places in their locality. The list of places in that area is automatically provided by Hotpot. After a user has rated 5 places from the list, a new list is automatically shown. The more places a user reviews, the easier it is for Hotpot to suggest other places that the user may like.

Hotpot is also integrated with other Google searches, so when users click on Places they will also see reviews from other sites like Yelp and Urbanspoon.

The Hotpot service can be accessed on mobile handsets through Google Mobile Apps. It is currently available only on Android phones. This mobile service is especially useful for someone who is in unfamiliar territory, as they can see reviews from friends who have been there and select a place that their friends have recommended.

Google’s recent drive to spruce up their local business service seems to be finally delivering on their predictions of search evolving into a more personalised, localised and social experience.