Google is folding HotPot into Google Places, in an effort to clean up a bit of the confusion that is Google’s collection of LBS properties. There’s no substantive change; Google is just making HotPot a “feature” of Places.
It’s also a reflection of the fact that Google now considers HotPot a success and is folding it permanently into Places. Google previously revealed that there were in excess of three million ratings on Google HotPot/Places.
Independently VendAsta also confirmed to me that there had been a rapid rise in the number of ratings coming from Google.
I asked Google where the name “HotPot” came from. I had missed the blog post explaining the genesis of the name:
Hot pot, the dish, is about community. You and your friends huddle together and add ingredients to a pot of boiling broth, creating a delicious soup to be enjoyed by all. Sometimes you take your own food from the pot, and sometimes you taste what your friends have added. This shared experience of gathering around a fire to cook and eat communally is a fundamental illustration of how we’ve come together to enjoy food from the earliest days of humanity.
I also had a chat with Yelp today, which sought to make the point that there’s a difference between star ratings and in-depth reviews — in other words Google vs. Yelp. I argued that in some contexts it would matter immensely and in others it would not as much.
In a star-ratings environment most businesses wind up being 3.5 stars: “regression toward the mean.” This is when additional content and information help break the tie.
However Google would argue that HotPot’s ratings also facilitate friend recommendations, which is another axis of decision-making. So it’s not entirely about stars.
Yelp doesn’t seem to have been impacted at all by the rise of HotPot’s ratings. Yelp said that there’s been an acceleration of reviews and traffic during Q1. The company now claims more than 50 million unique users around the world. It also claims more than 15 million reviews. That’s an old number; it’s probably almost 3 million larger now.
(Vince Sollitto of Yelp just emailed me and said the number is 17 million reviews.)
What do you think? Is there a meaningful difference between star ratings and long-form reviews?