hotpot (not capitalized) let's you join the reviewers from Google's partners and others in Google Places. You can network and review restaurants, hotels, and just about any type of place ... in any place.
In addition, hotpot is it's own social network (surprise ? :), letting you connect with others using your contact list from Gmail.
Accessing hotspot, you are greeted by a welcome screen which lets you upload a photo and choose a hotpot nickname:
From there, you're taken to a simple screen (which seemed very accurate in both city and rural searches), where you can look for hotels, restaurants and more.
Photos, ratings and existing reviews all come together there with links mostly going to Google Maps.
Photos are collected from both Google and non-Google web properties, making extensive use of Google owned Panoramio, which up until now appeared mostly in Google Earth.
If all of this is starting to sound confusing, perhaps the best part is .... that it's not.
Using hotpot is a snap and self-explanatory.
Your recommendations could appear in Google Places as well as your own Google Profile and you can select whether to view Friends, Rated or ALL reviews.
Privacy? Google makes absolutely no secret that the more you interact with hotpot, the more Google is going to try and tune recommendations to your specific tastes:
In fact, the second time you log in, Google will try and geo-locate you and provide a local page full of restaurants, hospitals, even public school systems ... and you can do it right from your PC (No smartphone required).
You can try out Google hotspot right now here.
It's live ..... and no 'invite' is required.
Update: You can find out more about Google hotpot on the Google LatLong blog here.
Two more good pieces have been published by Vanessa Fox here and Jolie O'Dell here.