Google personalizes local search with Hotpot

HotpotGoogle has launched a new service tied in with its Places feature that helps you and your friends rank and recommend local businesses. The tool, called Hotpot, is its new business-integrated search engine that helps you find what you’re looking for based on what you and your friends like.

Location is taking over the digital scene, with companies like Foursquare, Gowalla, Yelp and Facebook Places (meets Deals, of course) ruling the territory. Wisely, Google is beefing up its Places application with a social side to compete.

A significant advantage that many of Hotpot’s competitors have, however, is their integration with Facebook. It’s no secret at this point that Facebook and Google are on less than good terms, which puts Hotpot in the tough position of having to rely on its own social graph. Many Google account holders don’t create profiles for the site, choosing instead to use Google for Gmail alone. The built in viewership that comes with Facebook integration is invaluable, and Hotpot simply won’t have access to it.

Still, Google’s working with what it’s got, and the “Add friends” tool is simple and non-committal enough that it should be effective. Users are shown their Gmail contacts list and invited to “Add” friends from it, which sends an e-mail inviting the selected person to see your ratings.

The user interface definitely leans toward a traditional social networking format, and includes the option of an alias, profile picture, and the friends list. Aside from that, there’s no personal information available – something Google may have learned from its Buzz debacle. The focus is on Places, your rankings, and the recommendations eventually generated for you. By offering a social service with functionality at its core, Google is making a smart, safe step into the arena.

If it can get users beyond that annoying first round of sending and receiving invites to use Places with Hotpot, it will be a worthwhile service. Google Maps is many consumers’ default for directions and business’ locations, and a more accurate ratings system – not to mention those ratings being authored by people you know and presumably trust – would be a benefit for anyone.

And even if it can’t get people to collectively jump on and invite entire contact lists, Hotpot is still useful for an individual. Based on the ratings you give, it will generate recommendations for you. Who needs friends when you’ve got Hotpot?

Home Theater

Facebook might be planning a streaming box for your TV that watches you back

Facebook is reportedly working on a piece of streaming media hardware for your living room with a built-in camera for video calls, something people may not want given the company's recent controversies.
Computing

How to recover Google contacts

If you accidentally deleted an important person from your Google Contacts, they might not be lost forever. Recovering them is a fairly easy process -- as long as you do it quickly. Here's how.
Computing

Was your Facebook account hacked in the latest breach? Here’s how to find out

Facebook now reports that its latest data breach affected only 30 million users, down from an initial estimate of 50 million accounts. You can also find out if hackers had accessed your account by visiting a dedicated portal.
Music

Spotify vs. Pandora: Which music streaming service is better for you?

Which music streaming platform is best for you? We pit Spotify versus Pandora, two mighty streaming services with on-demand music and massive catalogs, comparing every facet of the two services to help you decide which is best.
Social Media

YouTube is back after crashing for users around the world

It's rare to see YouTube suffer serious issues, but the site went down around the world for a period of time on October 16. It's back now, and we can confirm it's loading normally on desktop and mobile.
Computing

Winamp eyes big comeback in 2019 with podcast, streaming support

Classic audio player Winamp is getting a major overhaul in 2019 that's designed to bring it up-to-date and make it competitive with the likes of Apple Music, Amazon Music, Spotify, Audible, and more, all in one go.
Computing

Adobe’s craziest new tools animate photos, convert recordings to music in a click

Adobe shared a glimpse behind the scenes at what's next and the Creative Cloud future is filled with crazy A.I.-powered tools, moving stills, and animation reacting to real-time tweets.
Computing

Is the Pixelbook 2 still happening? Here's everything we know so far

What will the Pixelbook 2 be like? Has the Pixel Slate taken its place? Google hasn't announced it, but thanks to rumors and leaks, we think we have a pretty good idea of what the potential new flagship Chromebook will be like.
Photography

Adobe MAX 2018: What it is, why it matters, and what to expect

Each year, Adobe uses its Adobe MAX conference to show off its latest apps, technologies, and tools to help simplify and improve the workflow of creatives the world over. Here's what you should expect from this year's conference.
Computing

Problems with Microsoft’s Windows October 2018 Update aren’t over yet

Microsoft's Windows 10 October 2018 update is not having a great launch. More than two weeks after its debut and Microsoft is still putting out fires as new bugs are discovered and there's no sign of its re-release as of yet.
Computing

Chrome 70 is now available and won’t automatically log you in to the browser

Google has officially launched Chrome version 70 on Windows Mac and Linux. The update introduces some new Progressive Web App integrations on Windows 10 and also tweaks the much controversial auto login with Google Account feature.
Computing

Corsair’s latest SSD boasts extremely fast speeds at a more affordable price

Despite matching and besting the performance of competing solid-state drives from Samsung and WD, the Corsair Force Series MP510 comes in at a much more affordable price. Corsair boasts extremely fast read and write speeds.
Computing

New Windows 10 19H1 preview lets users remove more pre-installed Microsoft apps

With the release of the latest Windows 10 19H1 preview build on October 17, Microsoft is letting some consumers remove more of the pre-installed inbox app bloatware from their machines. 
Computing

Apple’s 2020 MacBooks could ditch Intel processors, arrive with ‘ARM Inside’

If you're buying a MacBook in 2020, be on the lookout for a new "ARM Inside" banner. Apple is reportedly working on transitioning away from Intel processors for its MacOS lineup in favor of new custom A-series ARM-based silicon.