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Much of the talk over the past few months in the social networking world has been about location.First, everyone talked about the battle between Foursquare and Gowalla to rule check-ins. Then, there were rumours circulating about Foursquare considering a sale to Yahoo in the range of $100 million. Next, social networking site Booyah stole some of Foursquare’s thunder by announcing that they had 2 million users. Late last week, bloggers were buzzing about the Ad Age coverage of the pending deal allowing Facebook’s users to get rewards through check-ins at McDonalds. This week, it was widely reported that Foursquare eclipsed 40 million check-ins.
It is clear that there is value in the location check-ins for users to be able to share where they are. Users can also utilise these technologies to see which venues are popular right now. Also, businesses can benefit in a variety of ways through check-in technology as they are able to track, encourage, and excite users whom visit their stores. And while these technologies will continue to innovate and offer more to users and local businesses; there is another real time angle to location based social networking that has yet be paid the attention that it deserves.
Over the past few weeks, Times Square has been evacuated twice. It was first evacuated during the failed bombing attempt and a second time for a false alarm. Before, during, and after these evacuations, via check in technologies, one could see which, if any, of their friends were at Times Square along with how many users of check-in technologies in total, were there. However, what would be more interesting is to be able to see what people were saying in real time at Times Square. With real time search evolving as a result of Geotagging, you will be able to see this information.
Another prime example of this technology’s impact is with sporting events. Last week, a Philadelphia Phillies fan was tasered by a security guard as he ran on the field during a baseball game. TV stations generally try not to show people running on the field to try and deter others from repeating the behaviour. During this recent event, it would have been interesting to see what people at the Phillies game were saying about the tasering incident at that very moment.
Or, for example, let’s take LAX airport, during a breaking news event that is causing air travel delays. It would be much more useful to see what people are saying right now at LAX as opposed to merely seeing who is there. Often, news stations will run to a scene where breaking news is happening to get a comment from someone who experienced the event. With real time location search – there won’t be a need for that – as search engines will search social networking updates which are enhanced by Geotagging technologies to publish real time comments and thoughts from people at a specific location.
My site, Sency, recently launched real time location search. This initiative allows users to see what’s being said right now in Chicago, Los Angeles, and 12 other major cities. The next step is to allow the user to see the most recent comments from 3 popular places inside of each major city. For example, right now, users can see the most recent 10 comments made by people inside of LAX airport. As more and more users geo-tag their updates, there will be more location data for real time search engines to scour and publish. Right now, there wouldn’t be the depth of data to allow you to enter a keyword and search what’s being said at a given location, but there is certainly enough data for you to be able to see the most recent updates from a given location. In the future, expect to be able to enter keywords and search the specific location to dig deeper into the real time results.
Check-ins of course will continue to have their place, and can provide value to individual users in their own right. For bars and restaurants, it is useful to be able to see where your friends are along with where the crowds are congregating. However, as social networking updates continue to be posted on mobile devices – you’ll soon be able to view comments made by anyone right now at a specific bar – which may clue you into whether or not there is a line at the door right now.
Many of the location based technologies are currently focused on only showing the user where their friends and contacts are at right now. However, the data pool becomes larger and often more beneficial when you are able to search updates from people at a given location regardless of whether or not they are in your network. By searching all of this data, users will be able to get a deeper understanding of what people are talking about right now at a given place.
Recently, a lot of neat maps have launched showing you what topics are being the most talked about in different cities across the world. This is only the tip of the iceberg. As time goes on, users will be able to narrow in much deeper to search what’s being said right now inside specific places across the world. In the second half of 2010, we’ll continue to hear about check-in technologies, but expect to also read plenty of hype surrounding real time location search.
Evan Britton founded Sency in 2009. The goal of Sency is to bring real-time content, links, and tools to Internet users in an organised and simple fashion.
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