Google announced this morning that it would be "graduating" Hotpot, the restaurant recommendation engine that it launched last November. By "graduating," the company means that the once stand-alone product would become an integrated part of Google Places.

What will become of Hotpot? Aside from the name disappearing and its merging into Google Places, the company offers little in the way of details. If you look at the past day's developments, however, it sure looks like Google is reinventing the wheel...or wheels, as it may be.

Google chronicles the rise of Google Hotpot on its blog, saying that "it's been incredibly exciting to watch Hotpot grow."

We've released an iPhone and Android app, integrated Hotpot recommendations into and Google Maps, expanded to more than 47 languages and enabled people to share their ratings and reviews to Twitter. While busy iterating on the product side, we've also launched marketing and community campaigns in five cities in the U.S.: Portland, Ore.; Austin, Texas; Las Vegas, Nev.; Madison, Wis.; and Charlotte, N.C.

So, Hotpot will officially become part of Places, the location database that provides aggregated reviews and venue information. It had already done so in function, in both the iPhone and Android apps, but now it will do so in name.

According to Mike Blumenthal, the company had already achieved quite a foothold in the review market and giving up the name could be "more than bizarre."

Clearly, Google, in democratizing the review process, making it simpler and pushing it out to the cell phone has facilitated a broad expansion of the review process by folks that never left reviews before. In that effort, they were able to achieve a run rate of over a million a month (13 million or so a year). That compares to the roughly 15 million total reviews that Yelp has garnered and an estimated current rate of about 600,000 a month.

Now, if only Google would add Google Latitude, its location-based check-in service, with its newly country-wide deals program, it could build...Yelp! (Or Foursquare or Gowalla for that matter!)