Google's Foursquare Rival, Latitude, Is A Mess

This morning Google Latitude was released to the iPhone. I will use it, but it’s totally breaking for me. Here’s why:

1. Google Contacts breaks at somewhere over 10,000 contacts. It stops letting you add new contacts. It doesn’t even break gracefully or consistently. Over on Google Buzz I was adding new people to follow at a rapid rate and then things just started going wrong. People wonder why I use Twitter over Google’s services and this is why. I’m following 28,000+ on Twitter and it doesn’t break. Google’s services do and inconsistently too. Makes me not rely on Google for anything. I actually went through and deleted thousands of contacts (mostly added from Google Reader years ago or Google Buzz) just to make it work and I’m not likely to add new people in. Which leads me to the second point. This is really a major downside of Google mixing social news systems like Buzz into my business and family contacts along with location services. I’d rather decouple those like I can with Twitter and Foursquare. Why? Because even if they DO break in the future, they won’t take down my business contacts. Google, in deciding to build all these into one system at really makes the whole mess a single point of failure that’s already bitten me.

2. The UI for adding new people really sucks. It is forcing me to go through friend requests one at a time serially. So, if I need to add a real friend, like my wife, I can’t without first going through hundreds of requests. Compare to Instagram and you’ll see the folly of that.

3. There isn’t value to sharing where I’m at all the time. I look at my friends on Google Buzz. Does it really matter to me that I know where they are? No. It only really matters if they are open for a meeting, if they are in the same neighbourhood as I am, or if they are doing something “braggable.” I’m not freaked out by sharing where I’m at, like many other people are, but I just don’t get any value out of it.

4. Because it runs all the time it uses some of my precious battery life. Enough said. The value I get out of it isn’t worth the battery savings.

5. My favourite content pushing services don’t post to Google Latitude. I use, for instance, to push photos to various places on the Internet. Most notably Tumblr and Foursquare. Google Latitude can’t apply.

6. No way to say “make my location totally public.” That’s what I really want to do. Why? So services could make a heat map of where I’ve been, which really is a fingerprint and you could compare that fingerprint to other people and find commonalities. How many BBQ places have I and Kevin Marks visited, for instance?

A far better way to follow me if you really want to know my location is Foursquare. Why? Because I use a variety of services to shove my location there, like, Foodspotting, and Gowalla, amongst others. Plus, I have 11,000 friends on Foursquare and it hasn’t fallen apart yet (and even if it did, it doesn’t mess with my contacts system that MUST be usable because I rely on it for other tasks).

Yes, I know, only me and maybe 20 other people in the world have some of these problems. But, really, why bet on a system that has these kinds of problems? Especially when better location-based services exist? That said, I’ll run the app once in a while to see how things change.

How about you? Are you using Latitude? What are your reasons for or against it?

Oh, and if you need to let a close personal friend see where you are, for some reason, then Glympse is a far better (and more secure) way to do that.

This post originally appeared on Robert Scoble’s blog and is republished with permission.


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