Google Hits Back at Facebook with 'Hotpot'

Just as quickly as Facebook waded into Google's turf with the announcement of its new messaging service, Google shot back with "Hotpot," a social recommendation tool. Will the fourth time be the charm for Google's attempts at social networking?

Just as quickly as Facebook waded into Google’s turf with the announcement of its new messaging service, Google shot back with “Hotpot,” a social recommendation tool. Will the fourth time be the charm for Google’s attempts at social networking?

Hotpot is the latest in the wave of location-based services such as Foursquare and Gowalla that gives users information based on where they are.

Google’s take on the trend is a “local recommendation engine” that lets users share recommendations with friends of their choosing, based on Google Places’ directory of 50 million locations around the world.

The free tool is broken down into three categories or, “ingredients,” in Google terms: Google Places, the places you like, and the places your friends like.

Google’s announcement comes just weeks after Facebook announced an expansion of its own location-based service, Places, that alerts users to special deals and discounts in their area.

With Hotpot, users get more help in narrowing down their choices. Rating a restaurant will result in Google’s recommendation of other places you might like based on your choices. If you trust your friends more than Google, you can also share your ratings with your friends and see the places they’ve recommended.

“We’re making local search results for places on Google more personal, relevant and trustworthy,” product manager Lior Ron said in a blog post announcing the feature. “When you rate places you like, we’ll tell you about other related places you’ll love.

The mobile app for Hotpot is currently available on Android phones only. Google said it plans to soon release an iPhone version soon.

Users can also access Hotspot the ‘old-fashioned’ way, via their desktop or laptop.