Location-based mobile social networking is growing by leaps and bounds. As smartphones proliferate around the world, more and more people are connecting to their mobiles versus their stationary computers to share experiences with others. Loopt recently partnered with Verizon Wireless to enhance its location-based networking capabilities. Loopt's community is built on three basic principles. Connect, Share, and Explore. The network operates similar to a compass and GPS. Installing the application creates a map on your phone that will locate your friend's residences and locales where they've visited. Users can leave comments at different locations and post updates as to where they might be located when. Sharing is easy with a built-in support for instant messaging. The user-generated feature allows you to check out reviews on restaurants, hotels, movies, etc that might have been recommended by your friends and/or associates.
LBMs allow you to share what you are doing via geo-tagged user-generated multimedia content, exchange recommendations, identify nearby friends and set up on-the-go meetings with business associates. Blackberrys and 3G iPhones already support most of the the TOP TEN networks, so it might be time for you to jump on the LBM bandwagon!
According to an ABI Research report, “location-based mobile social networking revenues will reach $3.3 billion by 2013.” The study offers insight into trends, social networking features, drivers, barriers and includes detailed descriptions of solutions and market players, with special focus on business models.
Hence, it comes as no surprise that mobile phone companies are either establishing a working relationship with these apps, or are acquiring them and offering them as an extension of their services..
In researching what is currently available, I have developed the following TOP TEN list out of the dozen or so LBMs that have hit the market.
GyPSii is a location-based network that allows users to upload photos, videos and other information and data about what they're up to and where they can be reached. The geo-location feature allows users, for example, to take a photo of an outdoor sporting event, upload the image to GyPSii's service and then add the GPS location to it.
Once everything is tagged and loaded, GyPSii transmits it to other users with an online map that lets your friends and business associates locate where you are and how to track down the location where you took the photo or video.
Citysense differentiate itself from the LBM pack somewhat. Rather than interacting through the network via a Web portal, Citysense is an actual mobile application located on your smart phone (similar to any other app you might acquire or purchase). Currently, only BlackBerry users have access to this service, but an iPhone application should be coming out shortly.
Instead of the friend-feed found on some of the other LBMs, Citysense populates a map as to where folks are transmitting a cell phone signal. You can then locate where your friends, called tribes, are calling from and then instantly collect data and updates about the local hot spots nearby. For example, you can call your friend and tell them "oh, by the way there's a new band playing at a club around the corner from where you are right now!"
Plazes focuses on location-based communities. After registering on Plazes, users are encouraged to fill out a calendar with activities they're scheduling and then mapping it to the locale where it will take place. Once that's done, you can spread the word by clicking the "Spread It" button, which will send your activity to all your friends on the service and to the email addresses of friends not on Plazes. The service recently added SMS capabilities to the service that permits users to add Plazes on the go. Currently, it is supported by BlackBerry phones and an iPhone application is scheduled to come out soon.
MobiLuck believes in "Location, Location.Location." MobiLuck’s users skewed younger demographically than some of the other LBMs. The average user is 23 yrs old and can be found in Europe, US, India, Middle East and South Africa. The European location-based social network can locate and update friends with information about what they are up to and where they are located. MobiLuck also allows Symbian and Windows mobile smart phone users to chat with their MSN contacts and will soon have capabilities to support Yahoo, Gchat, AOL and Skype message services as well. As of this past May, Mobiluck exceeded 1 million members and they're growing at 6 000 new members a day!
Google Latitude's approach to location-based social networking is what some might call a LBM lite-version. In fact, all of the features are very similar to BrightKite (see #9 below), but with somewhat limited functionality. Recently released on the iPhone and iPod touch, Google is available in the Safari browser. At Apple's request, Google made it a Web app instead of a native app that required installation. The application lets you see the location of your friends on a map and modify your privacy settings so that you can control how your location is shared and with whom. To try Google Latitude, type google.com/latitude into your iPhone's browser, and you can gain access immediately.
Whrrl 's new V2.0 is a storytelling application for the web and mobile phone that lets people share and remember their real-world experiences as they happen. Everyone - whether physically present or not - can contribute to the experience. With permission-based location sharing, stories and photos can be shared with trusted friends, all friends or everyone in the Whrrl network. Users have total privacy control at all times. With Facebook and Twitter integration, you can easily publish your photos and stories out to other social networks. Publishing to Facebook and Twitter creates a real-time web experience so even friends who are not on Whrrl can view and comment on your story.
iPling is a relatively new location-based social network developed exclusively for the iPhone. With this LBM, you can search for new friends in addition to established ones. You can use iPling to search for those that share your background, musical tastes, passion for blogging or anything else you can dream up. Creating an iPling profile consists of, essentially, tagging yourself. When you add your interests to the community, iPling searches their network for people nearby who share your interests. Users have the option of looking for others with open profiles or restricting access to only friends.
whereas Google Latitude is LBM-lite, Brightkite is full-featured.In fact, it was one of the first companies to really make a splash in the LBM space, combining location sharing, friend connections, and placestreams to create a photo and status update-feed for your check-in history for each location. Brightkite is a network that acts a lot like Twitter. In fact, you can add your friends to the network by entering your Twitter handle when you register for the service. Featuring a Facebook-like friend feed, and similar to some of the other LBMs, users can upload pictures and comments about where they are and what's they're doing.
Here's a short overview of Brightkite's features:
At the beginning of the LBM proliferation, there was a small company called Dodgeball, which is the origin of Foursquare. It was a location-based app before its time. As the story goes, Google snatched them up and essentially halted their further development. Thankfully Dennis Crowley and Naveen Selvadurai, the guys behind Foursquare, had the wherewithal to make it a realized continuation of their initial vision.
Some call Foursquare a game changer. Its distinctive from the others listed in this TOP TEN, and it’s real value can only truly be gleaned by actually putting it into action. It works as a game that awards points to players based on how often they go out, the number of places they visit, and even the number of friends they meet with along the way.Less active players win so-called badges, similar to those Boy Scouts earn Another app called Booyah released in July has focused on this approach as well (read my previous blog regarding this app).
According to a ReadWriteWeb article, "while we have little doubt that mobile social networking will become a big market in the future, today's reality is still rather bleak. Because of the limitations in the current hardware and software implementations, a lot of the location-based mobile social networks like Loopt and Whrrl feel limited and at times rather gimmicky."
In the near future, mobile social networking may take a giant leap forward when the the big social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter start releasing location-aware applications for mobile devices. However, as the market stands today this TOP TEN list represents some of finest front-runners in the LBM race for dominance and attracting a critical mass. It will be interesting to see in the next year, which of this group will scale the fastest.
Now, I would like to hear from you. While this is my list of preferences I would like to know which Location-based mobile social network you prefer and why? Take our poll and provide us some feedback by leaving a comment.
RECOMMENDED BOOKS ON SOCIAL NETWORKS:
Connected: Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives
Mining the Social Web: Analyzing Data from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Other Social Media Sites