Location-based services still finding their way

Nov 14, 2010
Tech

Location-based services haven’t lived up to their hype or promise — at least not yet. In its latest survey, Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life reports that LBS or geosocial technology actually declined last month to four percent of the population from five percent in May. Jon Evans in TechCrunch suggests why: “Because they’re […]

Location-based services haven’t lived up to their hype or promise — at least not yet.

In its latest survey, Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life reports that LBS or geosocial technology actually declined last month to four percent of the population from five percent in May.

Jon Evans in TechCrunch suggests why: “Because they’re not giving us any good reason to use them. Look at their web sites. Gowalla proclaims, ‘Discover the extraordinary in the world around you.’ Foursquare says, ‘Unlock your city.’ To which I say: ‘Oh, come on“ — and it seems I speak for approximately 96 percent (formerly 95 percent) of the population.’”

Indeed, these sites offer an approach with virtual scavenger hunts, pizza merit badges and stamping passports for visiting places that would seem to appeal to kindergartners, not mainstream web users looking for bargains rather than “fun.”

He says, so far, only early adopters seem to be interested.

But Kevin Fitchard at Connected Planet sees some glimmer of hope. “Foursquare may be one of those companies on the vanguard of merging what technical types call ‘meatspace’ with virtual space. Every physical location becomes filled with virtual information. We just use our phones as a conduit for viewing it.”

Evans says that adding value to participation, such as by offering coupons, may be the route to success, rather than an extension of social networking by the likes of Facebook with its Deals.

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He points to Chicago-based Groupon, the coupon discounter, described by Forbes as “the fastest-growing company in web history,” as a role model for the LBS plays.

Evans says that LBS  companies can and will be at least as big. He adds: “But they need to make it clear that what you get is the ability to announce I’m downtown, I’m hungry, and I don’t know what I want to eat! or I need to buy a Kris Kringle gift, and I don’t much care where! – and then sit back and watch the discounts roll in.”

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