In the past month, Google’s +1 has been the most hyped Social feature that Google has launched to date, as it has the potential to compete with Twitter and Facebook.
A less noticed launch during this same time included social changes to Google’s Latitude product, which have also been launched to help Google compete with Foursquare.
Much like Foursquare, these new updates allow for users to gain status at different locations as well as “unlocking” offers.
One main component to know about Latitude is that users share their location with others, real-time.
If installed on your mobile device, Google Latitude will automatically update based off of a few factors including if you are moving in location, battery life, and how fast you are moving based on GPS.
In order to share this information with others, there must be a mutual acceptance. The app took over a year to show up on the iPhone due to “confusion with maps.”
Back in February, you were able to check-in to a Google Places location and not only share with your Latitude friends, but also make the post public to your Google Profile. The service reportedly has over 10 million active users, although, visible usage doesn’t seem to show it.
The core functionality of Latitude has been instead of asking “where are you?”, Google could answer this via Latitude:
This automatic location sharing principle of course spurred many privacy issues. Google also enabled tracking of location history, which dialed the concerns up even further. Automatic location based updates can however be turned off in Latitude if a user chooses to not share their locale.
What About Social?
Unlike Gowalla, Foursquare or Facebook Places, Google Latitude brings in the benefit of automatic location sharing. So the question becomes how important is that for both users and retailers? Will the usage of Latitude help Google succeed in the geographic deals sector? Well, here is an interesting stat from a TechCrunch article last year:
“…a full quarter of Latitude users have zero friends. Yes, zero.”
To me personally, Google Latitude is a very unsocial product. In my world, this is actually the least social product that I can imagine. Sure, it would be nice to show my significant other if I am still at work or on the way home, and let my parents know that my flight made it home on time, but sharing my auto-updated location with acquaintances is too personal.
The main reason that I use Foursquare is because I can easily update my location and share with my Foursquare friends when I want to let others to see. This, however, is not the same thought process as the “see where your friends are right now” aspect of Latitude.
Personally, I wonder why Google leveraged the Latitude platform for the launch of this service. It seems that a much less intrusive format would have been a combination of using your Google Profile to claim a geographic location-based Google Offer at a specific Google Place right on Google Maps.
This method would completely bypass the auto-location sharing element and any preconceived notions of Google Latitude. In a time when location based privacy is a red hot topic, I believe that Google will see a lack of support for “Latitude deals” by both retailers and users due to the intrinsically personal core that Latitude is built around.