Location-as-platform is still too early

With a lot of location-as-platform services available like Foursquare and the geo-tagging ability in Twitter, I still think it is too early to succeed.

While these are great features and easily feasible with smart phones like the iPhone and Android devices – the biggest issue I see is the battery life of these phones. If I leave the GPS and Bluetooth services “on”, the battery life goes down to about 60% (no statistical backup to this amount) of what it was. So, I only turn on these services as I need them so I don’t run out of battery when I really need it. When batteries increase their life and the GPS sensors consume less power – then the potential of users leaving these services on increases and gives more potential to these location based services. And I don’t see the battery-life equation being solved for a couple of years.

Living in the TampaBay area which is not as “location” friendly as San Francisco for these kind of early-adopter services, I don’t expect any of my friends to use services like FourSquare and it doesn’t return any results for a “Tampa” search either. Twitter on the other hand would be more feasible for such a solution but I am not (yet) a Twitter addict who has to keep checking my updates on my phone.

In my opinion, Facebook has the greatest potential to utilize such a service. In the days when (1) battery life is better, (2) the iPhone can run applications in the background, (3) Facebook develops an application that tracks user’s locations and (4) smartly notifies users when their friends are around – the location-as-platform service will bear fruit.

A lot of users, including myself, have privacy concerns and I wouldn’t want Facebook advertising where I am and where I go all the time.

This is the scenario of how I see it work
  • A user creates a Facebook event like “Gasparilla Parade 2012” and tags the location in the event.
  • Regardless of whether I accept the invitation or not, the Facebook application would run in the background and figure out if I am in the area.
    If I am in the area, it would prompt me whether I want to advertise my location for the “next X hours”.
  • Same thing would happen with other users or even for users who have not been invited to such an event but if Facebook realizes that more than 2 friends are in the area, it would prompt them to advertise their location.
  • Our phones would then alert us if there are friends in the area and we can meet each other and also manage to find each other on a street-level map because the noise would prevent us from being able to converse over the phone.


But knowing Facebook, they would probably start off this way and then Mark Zuckerberg would decide that it would advertise all the locations a person went to, all the stores they visited, the types of bars they frequented, the types of communal worship places they visited and would sell that information to advertisers and invade your privacy in every conceivable way. Honestly, I wouldn’t want my location to be advertised to everyone on Facebook who is sitting at home but only to users in the area of interest and without such fine-grained controls, I am not sure how effective this strategy would be.