Since geo-locaton apps - also known as location-based social networks - became part of our cultural zeitgeist, there are many who have chosen not to join their rank and file. Still considered part of the Wild West fringe of the social media landscape, the schadenfreude descriptor of "all hat, no cattle" comes to mind in calling out apps that are more playful than serious.
While users celebrate Foursquare Day today in several cities throughout the land, another location-based social network is re-working the 'check-in' functionality so it becomes less game and more meaningful. Critics have long felt that while "check-ins" were novel and set the LBSs apart from online social networks, in the long-term, users would eventually lose interest.
To avoid that pitfall, the family app "Life360" announced in a press release that it just reached the 2 million user milestone with "family" members (1 million of which just joined in the last 10 weeks). Similar to the "family plans" that telecom companies offered cellphone users, the app provides a means for parents to receive updates as to their childrens' whereabouts.
Differing from Foursquare or even Gowalla, Life360 offers a clear and simple value proposition for families. According to Marshall Kirpatrick from ReadWriteWeb, check-ins on this service send simple GPS co-ordinates from a child to parent stating their exact location.
Chris Hulls, Life360's CEO says telecom carriers love the app because it helps up-sell families to smart phones and premium contracts.
"In order to best serve their customers, carriers benefit by working hand-in-hand with application developers," Hulls wrote in RCRWireless last month. "By doing so, they are giving their customers a key element to long-term satisfaction - enhanced functionality. This puts carriers in a strong position to keep customers happy, and generate more profits."
So as Life360 continues to scale exponentially, I'm sure it will start influencing Foursquare and their posse to start wrangling up some more cattle that will show its services also bring value to the table. In not doing so, they leave themselves open to becoming just another been-there-done-that type of service. And while Life360 could also be considered a one-trick pony in some respects - geo-location apps in general need to think about adding other enhancements and layers to their value proposition - less they be dismissed over time, as just another "all hat, no cattle" app.
For another look at security and threats related to geo-location apps, see my previous post titled, Location-Based Social Networks Need Sheriffs, Not Mayors