06 Feb Where are Twitter and Facebook’s Geolocation Features?
Mashable, CA, By Adam Ostrow, February 4, 2009
I’ve been playing around with Google Latitude on and off since this morning. I must admit, it’s pretty cool and demonstrates why geolocation is interesting, and services like Loopt and BrightKite have found some success as early players in the space. But as myself and a lot of other commenters have noted, the problem with Latitude is that Google contacts really aren’t your actual social network in most cases, primarily because of the quirky way in which Gmail adds people to your buddy list. Nonetheless, Google Latitude has me thinking about geolocation again, and more aptly, why the big social networking players – Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter – aren’t doing anything with it. Facebook, and to a lesser extent Twitter (and formerly MySpace … it still is for lots of other people), is an actual representation of my social network. And, with the ability to sort contacts into different groups (personal friends, colleagues, high school classmates, etc), the privacy concerns that come with any geolocation-based social network are mostly alleviated. Status updates are already built in (Latitude comes with a Status feature too), adding useful data when you see where your friends are. Essentially, it becomes the automated tweet-up. The only thing seemingly missing from the big social networks is mapping and the decreasingly complex technological barriers it takes to do geolocation. But Google Maps, Yahoo Maps, and Mapquest all have APIs for that. The big revenue opportunity with geolocation – which Loopt and a number of mobile ad networks are already pursuing – is hyperlocal advertising. Knowing where you are, these companies can very precisely target advertising for local businesses. Other than Google, Facebook, MySpace, and to a lesser extent Twitter are amongst the few companies with the scale to make a self-service hyperlocal solution work. Here’s how a solution like that would operate: imagine you’re a local pub – with an AdWords like platform for geo-based ads, you could buy ads – on your own via the Web – that run from 6-10pm, promoting a drink special, that broadcasts only to people within a 5 mile radius of your location. That’s powerful, and for companies on the scale of the top social networks, a huge potential revenue driver, even in a bad economy. While these companies leave this opportunity sitting, at the same time they’re offering tools that would allow a smart startup to swoop in. Leveraging Facebook Connect or MySpaceID, a startup could simply add the geolocation component and develop the type of service envisioned. The competitive risk – that MySpace, Facebook, or Twitter will simply add the feature themselves – is obviously large, but with a few clever features, the slower-moving behemoths could be outmaneuvered. Perhaps Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter are working on geolocation features and just not telling anyone. If they’re not, they’re missing a big opportunity, both in providing incredible utility to users and creating a big new revenue stream. In the meantime, I think I’ll work on cleaning up my Google contacts and giving Latitude a run.