Five months ago, Google launched a local recommendation product called Hotpot and explained that Google Places was one of three main ingredients (along with "the places you like" and "the places your friends like"). Now, the situation's been reversed, as Hotpot's become a part of Google Places.
It might be possible to view this change as evidence of a failure, since Google gave few early indications that Hotpot wasn't meant to stand on its own. There weren't any of the "beta" or "labs" tags the company's so fond of, for example.
Still, a post on the Google Places Blog stated this afternoon, "It's been incredibly exciting to watch Hotpot grow - the community has quickly expanded to millions of users who are rating more than one million times per month and enjoying a truly personalized view of the world."
Then the post continued, "Based on this success, we've decided to graduate Hotpot to be a permanent part of our core local product offering, Google Places. Rolling Hotpot into Google Places helps simplify the connection between the places that are rated and reviewed and the more than 50 million places that already have an online presence through Google Places - places that millions of people search for and find every day on Google."
More Hotpot-style updates and features are supposed to be on the way, as well, although Google hasn't made any sort of timetable public (or given more specific details, for that matter).
We'll be sure to report any significant additional developments.