Google Opens Latitude's API, But It's Still Missing The Social Sauce

World Globe bear trap

Google is making another attempt at becoming a player in the location space with the launch of a free, open API for Google Latitude, the company announced today.

Latitude is Google‘s location-aware mobile app. The open API will allow developers to create a wide range of applications built around location data.

Google’s suggested developers could build things like “thermostats that turn on and off automatically when you’re driving towards or away from home.”

This is the obvious next step for Google in location — we recently suggested the company do something similar. There will ultimately be far too much done with location data for any one company to control it all; location platforms open to third-party developers are the way of the future.

Still, Google is missing a huge piece of the puzzle to be successful in this space – the social piece.  Latitude apps are mostly built to work for a single user in isolation. Most location-aware services that have succeeded so far have been social.

Unfortunately, even people — like us — who use a wide range of Google products don’t have a meaningful network of friends stored with Google. So it’s going to be extremely difficult for Google to become the central gatekeeper of location data, especially when Facebook is trying to do the same thing.

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