Location services which were unlocked by the rise of the smartphone have become a big topic in tech circles. Services like Foursquare, Gowalla, Facebook and Google Places all have major funding behind them, but is it warranted?
These location services allow you to check in to a location like a bar or pub and share that information with friends. But what does that get you? Do your friends automatically come running to join you? No, you get online badges to reward you for using the service. Foursquare has made some partnerships with retailers to offer discounts or free stuff to the Mayor of that location, whoever is desperate enough to sign in the most. It’s not really a social network because there’s no interaction, it’s not really a service because it generally doesn’t give you anything. It’s really just a game to play with friends, if they care. All well and good except for the privacy concerns of publicly checking in your location.
Is it just me or does the explosion of location services been fairly underwhelming? The biggest business to rise out of this market is Groupon, which isn’t really a location service. You are offered deals within your city, not by what’s near by, you could walk right by and you would never know.
These services should truly be using the combination of location and the Internet by focusing on personal uses. Your location is a fundamentally private thing, when was the last time you told a complete stranger where you were going. The phone should be used as an augmented reality tool, letting you know about deals, cool finds, and related services to your location. Maybe the problem is that there is an individual app for many different types of services, the could be solved by an omnibus location notifier of better notification and alters management by the OS, both of which are coming. Apple’s Reminders app coming soon will give you a task list dependent on your location at work its one thing at home another. You should be able to choose to start a hangout with your friends, groups or individuals that you choose, Facebook Messenger app has started down this road, but lacking the immediacy of timing, acceptance of the invite and directions.
The next generation of services should be focused on helping me, not just getting foot traffic into stores, that will happen naturally if you do it right. Until then I’m checking out on checking in.