Location-based services are certainly getting a great deal of buzz these days. From the race to become a “mayor” or “supermayor” on Foursquare to cracking the top-ten visitors to a place on Gowalla, people are REALLY getting into these services. Is it a sign that the world is getting smaller yet again or just passing fad? We want your input.
Location-based services / apps are designed to essentially do two things. First and foremost, they track your whereabouts. All of the services that we tested required you to “check in” and log your location. Secondly, they take that information and, well, socialize it. They let others know you are there, ask you to rate or review the place, let you know where your friends are, and attempt to make the whole thing fun. Some let you chat or interact with others in the same location (on the system mind you . . . not neccessarily in person) and some evern reward you for being there. For those who are new to location-based apps, it can be overwhelming to conceptualize. For hard core privacy protectionists, the concept can be downright scary! Do you really want people to know where you are?
The editorial team at iBraryGuy sampled four of the more popular location-based applications. Interestingly enough, we also eventually deleted them all from our phones. Each started out fun and even challenging, but eventually became somewhat annoying. Perhaps this is one area where we are just not “with it”. Perhaps, given our enthusiasm for technology, it is a sign of the staying power of these services. Who knows. While we initially enjoyed the fun of trying to earn badges on Foursquare and pick up pins on Gowalla, the bottom line ended up being that it was a bit of pain to have to always remember to whip our phones and check in. The social networking aspects of Loopt and Brightkite were equally as nifty at the outset. However, we found that so few other folks were using these apps that it was pretty darned hard to be sociable. Then there are the rewards . . . sure, you can meet new people and interact with folks who frequent the places you do, but the badges and pins are not like poker chips. You cannot cash them in. [There’s an idea for any of you location-based services who may be reading this!]
So maybe we are missing something that the hypemakers are not. What about you, our beloved readers? Are you using any of these apps / services? Take our poll below and please feel free to share your comments!