Location Location Location – Where will you be making your location-based check in?

Mar 26, 2010
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I bet it started spreading through your Twitter list like an epidemic. First you started seeing a single friend sending out some short updates “I’m at The Chicken Shack”, then like an infection, it grew. People started declaring themselves mayors or displaying badges bragging of their ability to make it to six bars on a Tuesday night. And then it got worse, not only were they declaring imaginary mayorships but rivaling one another for them and checking into their own homes and workplaces, as though we didn’t already know that’s where you were from 9 to 5 and 8 to 9 every day anyhow. If you’re sick of location-based networks now, steel yourself, because it’s going to get worse before it gets better. Already there are a glut of location-based social networks on the market and the space is set to change drastically if (more like when) Facebook launches its own check-in service directly integrated into its existing app. Although the apps on the market are all of the same species, they vary in some of their end goals and operations so depending on whether competition or cuisine fuels you more, you might be more attuned to one over the others. Use this detailed list to sort out the right location-based app for you, or spend the first twenty minutes at every place you arrive at checking into 10 different networks (like I did for this list.) Your call.

Foursquare – Find Places to Eat, Drink, and Visit

At just over a year old, it has been a quick rise to the top for Foursquare, becoming the dominant network with strong footing in cities like New York where mayorships are posted on signs outside restaurants, and parks have had guerilla mayorship flyers posted. I like to compare the feel of Foursquare to Facebook, and even the colors are a bit similar. It’s a very simple interface with few bells and whistles outside of the ability to see nearby tips and to dos. Earning imaginary badges offers a strange amount of gratification and as people are able to create their own badges and special event badges are offered, the incentive grows. What works most here is the number of people already engaged, you can likely come on and already find a few friend playing. Not only are people engaged, but businesses are engaged and it won’t be long before nearby tips and discounts starts popping up for you. Want to follow me on it? http://foursquare.com/user/rachelyouens

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Gowalla

Although they debuted at nearly the same time, Foursquare has stolen the lime light for location-based apps, but Gowalla is now flush with capital and making a renewed push to take the marketplace. One of Gowalla’s differentiating features is that instead of earning badges you earn virtual goods that you can later leave at other check-in points for people to find. I have a feeling this aspect will be a line in the sand..the virtual goods market is a booming one but there is a still a staunch crowd who just don’t get it. You can still get awards for challenges as well as completing trips, and between these three elements I get a bit confused about what I should be excited about earning. Trips are a pretty neat element and, although I haven’t yet completed one myself, but it looks like a cool way to discover your own city or places you visit, whether your interests are history, culture or gastronomy. Want to follow me on it? http://gowalla.com/users/rachelyouens

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Yelp

It was long speculated that Yelp and Foursquare would join in cahoots but rather than making the logical decision, Yelp has hard headedly started its own check-in system, which launched in January 2010. It’s a natural leap for foodies and other local business connoisseurs to track their loyalty through a location-based service, and Yelp’s allows them to become “regulars” and have the title added next to their name and reviews. Egh. The check-in system here is pretty clearly an afterthought and even most Yelp elites I know are loyal Foursquare members. Yelp gives you the option to tweet or message out to your Facebook friends, but I’m not sure this is enough. The power of Yelp and Foursquare combined could have been infinite, but Yelp alone just doesn’t pack enough incentive or excitement. Want to follow me on it? http://rachely.yelp.com

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Loopt

For some of these apps, describing the differences isn’t so black and white and so for Loopt I’m going to offer my best description as: The goal for Loopt isn’t competition or ownership of a location, but finding friends and getting to locations. The type of person who is really motivated by earning a badge or a mayorship may not be the audience for Loopt, but if you want to know exactly how close your friend is downtown it’s ideal. This app includes the standard photo upload and Twitter integration, but also prominently features click to call and a simple smiley or frowny review of a business. What’s really convenient is the mapped friend view that allows you to see who is nearest to you (based on their latest check-in) and identifies them by their Loopt image logos.

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Whrrl

If I had to differentiate Whrrl from Foursquare in a word, it would be storytelling. In comparison to a Foursquare profile page, a Whrrl page is so rich with photos, information and maps. For some this might translate to more exposure and loss of privacy, but for those who have already forsaken that luxury, this is an incredible way to see your activities catalogued and to see the photos and “footstreams” of members. It isn’t quite as quick and intuitive as Foursquare, I think some steps could be added to the user experience to make it smoother, but the speed and ease are already there. While the badge incentive isn’t present, there are societies you can join, and there are already tons of nearby deals you will find as you check-in. I almost wish I hadn’t discovered Whrrl so that I wouldn’t be faced with such a tough competition against Foursquare. Want to follow me on it? http://whrrl.com/person/19219866/Rachel_Youens

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Toodalu

I’m having trouble getting excited about this new app and understanding its unique proposition in comparison to its immense competition. At its core, Toodalu uses GPS to track you as you check-in around the city and allows you an at a glance view of all your friends’ locations. Not unlike most of the other apps you will see here. I’d like to really be able to recognize every app here as a unique snowflake, but I just don’t know what the special part of Toodalu is.

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Brightkite

BrightKite may not be the hip cool kid one the scene, but it is the senior vet, and while Foursquare and Gowalla are out building buzz, BrightKite is about to debut a way to consolidate all three services into one. You can sign up to be a beta tester at check.in. We’re still not entirely sure how, since the Gowalla API is somewhat under wraps, but it’s a problem we need an answer to, and my ears are open to hear it. In and of itself, BrightKite is a nice app, with lots of power and flexibility. The difference between posts and check-ins is a bit confusing, but the bottom line is that you can easily post photos. Much like Whrrl you can produce a rich stream of information complete with an RSS feed you can use elsewhere. This may be an oldie in the location-based scene but it’s still a goodie and with its “one check-in to rule them all” it may just seize the top spot again. Want to follow me on it? http://brightkite.com/people/rachelyouens

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DoubleDutch

What Ning was to Myspace and Facebook, Double Dutch is to location-based social networks. This newly launched service is able to be entirely white labeled and branded for companies and events, but you can go ahead and download the app in the app store to get a preview of what Double Dutch has to offer. I suppose this was an inevitable idea, and that there are companies out there who are going to prefer the safety and control of these private apps as opposed to the wild west of Foursquare and others, but for those who are already participants in these leading networks (which could be EVERYONE if Facebook releases their version) there doesn’t seem to be much incentive. This app is plenty powerful, integrating with Twitter and allowing you to review and upload photos, but the design just smacks of being dumbed down. This service may sell well for things like the Ohio Coroners Convention to attendees almost a decade late to smart phones, but for the rest of us I don’t see it picking up. Things like Foursquare’s sponsored experiences and Gowalla’s trips are just going to be too difficult to pull people from.

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Tweetsii

Another program where the check-in ability seems like an odd, tagged on afterthought. At its heart this is a locational Twitter app that allows you to see nearby tweets from friends as well as the general public and to attach pictures and tweets to specific locations. However they have tagged on an odd check-in ability that is pathetic in comparison with the other powerhouses here.

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Rummble

If you love winning badges, you’ll get hooked on Rummble’s Medals. This new kid on the block has most of the same standard features as the rest, but adds a few unique additions that help it differentiate. Rummble is a bit like a mix of Yelp and Foursquare, where there is a large emphasis on rating businesses and then having businesses recommended to you in the future based on a secret sauce algorithm.One of the other cool aspects of the app is its ability to be checked into without ever actually opening the app. If you simply tweet where you are, where it is, what you are doing, a rating and the hash tag #rummble, Rummble will digest this information into the app. So basically you can check into Foursquare, type this info and rating into your tweet and check into Foursquare and Rummble simultaneously, giving it almost the same power as what BrightKite’s Check.in is about to offer. Want to follow me on it? http://www.rummble.com/rachely

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