Home > Uncategorized > Geo-Location: 4 Tales for April 16th

Geo-Location: 4 Tales for April 16th

The social media industry is undergoing a revolution of sorts, with innovative technologies that are giving new meaning to the term “location, location, location.”  In fact, some of the coolest features being announced by social media platforms are rooted in geo-location technologies.   These technologies are, for the most part, a new take on an old idea – GPS or the Global Positioning System – referring to the services provided by a series of US satellites that orbit the Earth. After forces from the former Soviet Union shot down a Korean Airliner jet in 1983, President Reagan signed an executive order making the technology available for commercial use.  Now, nearly 20 years later, companies are taking geo-location technologies to the next stage in their evolution and making them accessible to most anyone with a GPS enabled phone or device.

Just this past week, there were 4 different news stories about how geo-location is re-shaping social media.  In honor of Global Social Media Day (yes, that is today), I thought I would share them with you.

1. The first story is all about Foursquare. The 13-month old website that no one had really heard of before SXSW ’10, now has 799,000 users (including me, I just signed up). The company recently announced an innovative partnership with Bravo TV and continues to expand its family of partners.  This post is particularly appropriate as today, April 16th, is also Foursquare Day (fourth month, 16 is foursquared, clever?).  In San Francisco this evening, you can attend a Foursquare Swarm Party and earn a badge if you “check in” at least four times.  The incentives?  Discounts and free drinks – especially if you are a Mayor.  Foursquare’s unique proposition is that it brings advertising opportunities directly to the point of need. And it’s keeping up with its users too – to assure its advertising partners that its users are where they say they are.  Recognizing that some enterprising Foursquare patrons were checking in without actually being at the locale, the company recently rolled out “cheater code” to deter less energetic Foursquare users who seek mayorships from the comfort of their couch.

2. The second story comes from last year’s Foursquare (or is Foursquare this year’s Twitter?).  No longer the “scrappy startup,” Twitter is evolving into the communication platform of choice for those who choose to express themselves in 140 words (or thereabouts).  Today, it has over 100 million users who generate over 55 million posts a day (and a gargantuan amount of real-time data).  Making that data more relevant to a user will be key to Twitter’s continued success in an increasingly crowded space of competitors.  This week, at the company’s first developer conference (aptly titled “Chirp”), Twitter introduced its “points of interest” feature, which allows users will be able to reveal and search for exact locations.  The feature allows you to see all of the tweets or posts made from that location – a sort of real-time yelp on steroids.  Another tool called annotations allows users to reveal metadata, such as their location, in published tweets.  The meta data of course, does not count towards the 140 word limit.

3. Our third story is yet to be told.  It involves Facebook, the most popular site in the US (according to TechCrunch and Hitwise), and its plans to introduce geo-location services to over 400 million Facebook users worldwide.  The details will be unveiled at F8, the company’s sold-out developer conference to be held next week in San Francisco.  A sneak peak at the agenda suggests that the big announcement could be during the morning’s keynote, or perhaps during one of the breakout sessions for new tools (where the description currently reads “everything you need to know about our new tools. We’ll share more about this session at f8.”).  Of course, the impact of this announcement will reverberate strongly throughout the geo-location ecosystem, and it remains to be seen whether Foursquare and even Twitter will be able to keep up with the mighty Facebook once this feature launches.

4. Our last story is about the FTC and its never-ending race to keep up with the surging rush of new technologies, particularly those that focus on geo-location services.  The issue is already on the FTC’s agenda – in the form of a merger and a proposed rulemaking.  In their letter to the FTC, outlining concerns with the acquisition of AdMob by Google, Consumer Watchdog and the Center for Digital Democracy point out the privacy concerns of combining location data with a user’s data profile.  The FTC’s opinion on this particular transaction will most certainly signal its views on the importance of geo-location data in competitive and privacy analysis.  And, recognizing the increasing adoption of GPS-enabled smartvphones, particularly among users aged 13 and under, the Commission has invited comment on its Children Online Privacy Protection Rule 5 years earlier than Congress had originally prescribed in 2005.  In its announcement, the agency specifically identified the ability to collect “mobile geo-location data” in connection with behavioral advertising, as one of the technological changes that warrant re-examination of the Rule.

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