These days our smart phones come GPS-enabled, helping us figure out which direction to head when we’re lost, and where the nearest post office is. Being location-aware can be a pretty social thing as well, considering all of our interactions have a time as well as a place. These two factors can have a great impact on the decisions you make – you’re already on the north side of town and you don’t mind killing another 25 minutes until a local networking event begins. Or perhaps you are spurred to leave the house once you find out Jen is going to the party downtown after all.
It’s no wonder that location-based networks have flourished with the rising popularity of social networks, advancing mobile technology and the fluid cooperation between all of the above. For you, that means there is a wide array of location-based mobile applications to choose from. I’ve listed some of the top location-based mobile applications below. If you believe I’ve left any important ones out, let me know by dropping a comment below!
Loopt – A veteran in the social mobile space, Loopt combines status updates with your actual location so you can better link up with friends. See where your friends are at any given time, and contact them to see if they’d like to meet for coffee while you happened to be in the same vicinity. You can also receive mobile alerts when a friend is nearby, prompting you to contact them for one reason or another, even if you don’t end up meeting up with one another.
A recent update to Loopt provides recommendations for new contacts based on your preferences and location. You can then contact that user to see if they’d like to meet up some time. The recommendation option has a good amount of potential for Loopt, as it can be expanded to include recommendations for events and venues in conjunction with recommendations for new contacts. These areas of recommendations could even be combined to offer a highly personalized experience, basing recommendations off of data provided by the user or even their travel patterns.
Whrrl – Another veteran in the social mobile space, Whrrl has undergone a few major updates in the past couple of years. The updates made Whrrl more social, and more integrated with some of the networks people were already using. It’s the story-telling aspects of Whrrl that make it such a useful service, however. The location-based tracking of your activities can be organized into a timeline of sorts, telling of your experience in a unique and chronological order.
In this way, Whrrl is dedicated to enhancing and preserving the events occurring in your life, using location as a foundation. Upload images and videos, mark your position on a map, and narrate your experience with text updates. You can then share these multimedia aspects of your experience with the world, in real time.
The sharing capabilities of Whrrl are rather useful, as they now include the major social networks like Facebook and Twitter. This makes it easier and somewhat more automated to expand your experience, encourage others to contribute to your Whrrl thread for a given event, and even meet people at the event as a result of the connectivity taking place on Whrrl.
Brightkite is rather dedicated to the recommendation space, leveraging the social aspects of its location-based network to suggest events you may be interested in attending. As such, Brightkite is a tool that constantly updates you to the activities and related locations of your friends, as well as those activities you may want to check out for yourself.
That’s not to say that Brightkite won’t suggest people for you to check out as well. The beauty of a location-based network is that it can link people based on common interests beyond that of their location. Brightkite has enhanced the social capacity of its mobile app by enabling a friends feature, differentiating between a fan and a friend. It’s important to continuously tweak the social features of a location-based network as privacy remains a valid concern when sharing your location with an app.
Also socially integrated, Brightkite links to several social networks, including Flickr, Facebook, Twitter and more. As I mentioned, this extends the ability for Brightkite to provide valid access points between its mobile application and those other social networks where you may be inclined to share the same information. By integrating on this level with so many social network, Brightkite looks to simplify that process.
Fire Eagle – Yahoo has tried its hand at many things, including location-based social, mobile networks. One such project is Fire Eagle, a noble attempt at consolidating the location-based activity of a user across multiple sites. Different from other location-based mobile networks that integrate with other social networks, Fire Eagle becomes a centralized management tool for establishing your own privacy standards around your location-aware applications.
As a platform, Fire Eagle is available for third party applications on an integrated level. For consumers, that means that they can update multiple sites from their Fire Eagle account. Privacy settings can be set for each application, granting the user the power to share certain information with only certain people. Select which app auto-updates your general region, and which app can go so far as to show the address of your current location.
Google Latitude – Another project from a major tech company, Google Latitude works from your mobile phone and shows the location of your friends. From here, you can contact your friends via text message, email or phone call. Google too comes with a wide range of privacy settings, so you only share the information you want to share, with the people whom you want to share it.
Though the platform is not as accessible to developers as Yahoo Fire Eagle and other Google projects, there are a couple of features that suggest the ability to further integrate Google Latitude with other applications is a possibility in the near future. So far, Google allows you to post a location badge, or share your location in your Google Talk status as an update.
While still limited, the potential for Google Latitude is promising because it’s backed by the Google brand. Google has a number of applications under its own umbrella with which Google Latitude can be integrated, not to mention Google’s own mobile platform Android. Should Google want to further develop Google Latitude as an accessible platform, this could prompt growth for the project as well.
Microsoft Vine – Touted as an emergency tool for personal contacts and family members, Microsoft Vine’s location-based mobile network has all the makings of a consumer product. Microsoft Vine bears a concept that could easily lend itself to physical communities and business entities as well.
What Microsoft has done with Vine is create a value proposition for the use of its location-based network. Launching with an immediate practically, Microsoft Vine is hoping to gain on other similar networks by appealing to those that would be comfortable sharing such information as a necessity.
With its own mobile platform and the credibility behind its brand name, Microsoft Vine has the potential to be one of the top apps of its kind. From a consumer standpoint, having a useful app that increases the adoption of similar apps could be good for the industry as a whole.
GeoFollow – As with many Twitter apps, GeoFollow has a large emphasis on searching Twitter content. In this case, that Twitter content is location-based, in an effort to help you better utilize Twitter. As a massive ball of twittering thoughts, Twitter can be difficult to wade through. GeoFollow can pare down some of that data and give you location-based results to enhance your networking capabilities on Twitter.
A directory at its core, GeoFollow provides users that may be of interest to you, based on location and other keyword search parameters, which you define upon your initial search. This is particularly useful for new Twitter users, as they can often feel overwhelmed by the number of users on Twitter, and unaware of the best way to go about connecting with others on the microblogging site.
As Twitter is a status update service and already highly mobile, it’s relatively easy to leverage such a network for location-aware networking tools. Several other location-based mobile apps integrate with Twitter for this very reason, as a tweet can project one’s location to all their followers.
Nearby Tweets – Nearby Tweets is another Twitter-related service that is location-based, with similar benefits to end users as GeoFollow. Some additional personalization, however, makes Nearby Tweets more specific to individuals on a locally-aware level. What Nearby Tweets does is overlay your existing Twitter activity, giving you another dimension with which to interact with other Twitter users and content.
By offering real-time monitoring, Nearby Tweets is still a modified search engine. Yet the real-time Twitter stream is based on location. This way, you have a cloud of Twitter activity buzzing around you no matter where you are. Utilize this to meet with new people, learn of events or get a feel for frequented venues in your immediate vicinity.
In “Twitter-fying” your environment, Nearby Tweets combines your geography with other Twitter activity in order to offer insight to your surroundings. This extends value to otherwise useless Twitter content, as well as organizing Twitter content into something directly relevant to you.If you liked this article, please take this time to share it with your Facebook friends using the Facebook button (see Facebook post button to the left) or retweet it using Twitter (see retweet button to the left). You may also want to follow us or subscribe to the site to stay up-to-date with this article. If you'd rather follow us from your Facebook account, join our Facebook fan page or subscribe to our NetworkedBlogs profile.
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