The Ultimate Location Based Service

You Are HereWith all the buzz about geolocation and geo-tagging services, I still can’t find a service that:

…allows me to see where my friends are right now, especially if they are near me
…allows me to forecast where I’ll be and when, if I want to
…allows me to see if my forecast lines up with my friends (maybe even suggest a common place to meet?)
…provides really easy tagging of photos, audio or other posts by location, including favoriting or voting on most relevant/interesting for that location (and reporting spam if necessary)
…recommends places of interest to me based on my history or my friend’s history in locations – I’d love a “Pandora” of locations and related content
…allows me to share location with ‘groups’ of friends (I’d love to me more open about my location at a conference/event for connecting with professionals, but at other times restrict my sharing to people I know or even only share with people in that location)
…really gives the user a tangible benefit for sharing info by location. (Yes, Foursquare has a lot of potential here in working with businesses).

Ultimately whether it’s Foursquare, Gowalla, Dopplr, Google’s Latitude, Loopt, Brightkite or some other player, there’s room for improvement/consolidation here.  Any one of these does a lot but not all of the functions.  Ultimately the one that wins is the one that everyone actually uses.  (cough cough Facebook cough cough).  And don’t forget the security risks associated with sharing, which Jim Storer discussed almost a year ago.  What do you think?  Do you use one or more of these services?  What do you like or hate about them?

Photo credit: cibomahto via Flickr

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  • Good post, I am fascinated by location-based services and was a big fan of Brightkite until Foursquare came to Cleveland. It’s obvious their focus is on adoption and growth, because the winner, aka “one that everyone actually uses” will probably be bought out based on subscribers, not functionality.

  • I'd love one of the geotagging services to push my location from the iPhone to a specific set number of friends that did the same. Then I'd like my iphone to alert me when one of them enters my location. I'd want less friends on this so I see it as being a premium feature added by one of the companies you listed.

    It's my personal hope for this 🙂 I hate finding out friends were within a couple of blocks of me and I missed them.

  • Great add. This seems to happen a lot – closest I've found is Foursquare, but is a pull not push – you have to look and see if any friends are around right now. This sure would make finding people at a location (not just unintentionally) much easier.

  • I think Foursquare is closest since they have a legitimate benefit to using the service (associated business discounts) which creates an easier path to loyalty. I was a regular Brightkite user for a long time and the only reason I still do is due to the photo-sharing capability. Once Foursquare adds that, there's no real reason for me to use Brightkite.

    I've continued to use Foursquare due to this promise of further benefits once that business benefits program is fully rolled out. It integrates (to a degree) with facebook and twitter, and many people I know also use it. That said, I virtually never use it to see who's nearby or what my friends are up to. That could be because I'm not out after work much, but I would suspect most people use it for the same reasons I do.

    I usually choose not to post to Twitter partially because of the “who cares?” factor, but also for some of the reasons outlined in Jim's post. I haven't used GoWalla yet (which at least among the people I follow) seems to be gaining some traction.

    A few UI and feature enhancements (most notably photo and video sharing) and an uptake of their benefits program (make it worth my while to be the mayor of a place!), and I think Foursquare wins.

  • Agree with everything you said Derek. I stopped using Brightkite because most of the people I was connected to there moved services. I also really like Dopplr, but for the sole reason you can predict where you will be and when, then share/see who else will be there. I probably should have included functionality like Upcoming too.

    Being in the industry though, we're clearly early adopters. I would want something that would really be picked up my mainstream – would love to bump into college friends, neighbors, etc more and leverage their places of interests and recommendations to suggest what's near me (Yelp too?). Too much to ask I guess.

  • One other thing I'd like to see more of in mobile apps is push notifications which will tell me when I should check to see what's going on instead of relying on me to be constantly checking to see if there's someone nearby, has someone replied to me, etc.

    Facebook makes “best” use of this in my phone but only somewhat. The only time I see the little red notification circle appear on my facebook chiclet is if there are new notifications I didn't read WHILE USING THE APP. It doesn't alert me as they come in; it's just a reminder that there were new notifications I didn't read the last time I launched the app.

    Twitter apps could benefit similarly. I'd imagine 4 different types of notification circles appearing on the icon, one in each corner (new replies, new DM's, new RT's and new tweets in a given column/search/list I'm tracking).

    You can see how this could be extrapolated to location-based services as well. Push notifications for new deals or offers near you, people checking in nearby, people you've favorited checking in, etc.

    As with most digital content, a service or application which can cut through the noise and TELL ME proactively when I need to take a look and see what's going on. This is the same important service a well-designed dashboard provides: it helps to save me from drilling into each area of content and puts front and center the new activity I've told it (or in some cases it has learned) I care about.

    Above the other things I mentioned in my previous comment (which I consider as table stakes for any well-designed location-based service), it is this proactive notification which will make any content service truly valuable to knowledge workers or even the casual user.

  • in using Yelp often, a lot of friends I've met through Yelp are using Gowalla and Foursquare to alert and keep up with each other on Unofficial Yelp Event nights. Brightkite and others were cool, but not as instantly easy. I do like how I can choose to tweet with GoWalla and Foursquare on the fly so that if I am doing it to be found, we cover the widest possibilities. Still, I want a push system.

    GoWalla (to me) has a better Geo-Tag finding interface. Due to prizes and mayorship, some people try to game Foursquare which I find to be quite annoying at times.

  • Great article Adam.

    I'm really interested in location based services although I have very few connections on them so I've never found them to be that social.

    Given my experience I'd agree with Dominic that subscriber numbers rather than functionality may well be the most important feature in the long-run.

    However, I do think Google could be well positioned to offer something quite unique in this area by linking the new near me now and explore this area features with Latitude and Google Calendar. I'd also think that they have the perfect incentive. A large network of advertisers who I'm sure would be interested in the opportunities to deliver the sort of really relevant and targeted material that such a set of services may offer.

  • Im using Foursquare at the moment and just started trying Gowalla out. I started using Foursquare mainly because of the future business use and am, obviously, still waiting for that. Things like allowing 'groups' of friends and photo sharing would also enhance the service.

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  • Nicole Brun

    you can try following shownearby.com, they have at least 75% of what you are asking for.

  • ldevanna

    I *need* this for conferences… Would really enable the connection of physical to digital worlds. I'd love to know when I am sitting next to folks from my network whom I've never met…

  • I'm in the same boat. Just blown away by the abilities of location-based services. At first I was skeptical that I would be out with a friend and people would show up randomly, but it has been very helpful. Adam, you are right… still a long way to go locally.

  • I'm in the same boat. Just blown away by the abilities of location-based services. At first I was skeptical that I would be out with a friend and people would show up randomly, but it has been very helpful. Adam, you are right… still a long way to go locally.

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