Location-based services: are they there yet?

We look at Facebook, Foursquare, Google Latitude and Yelp to see how their mobile location-based services have prospered -- or not.

By , Computerworld |  Mobile & Wireless, Facebook, Foursquare

Second, Facebook has rolled out its new Timeline feature to users, a chronological tool which has become its default interface. The Facebook location-sharing tool enables users to assign location information to events, images and statuses throughout their Timeline "history." As a result, location will become much more a part of the user's story, interwoven with all the other properties of Facebook posts.

With the Gowalla brain trust on board, it is not unreasonable to expect more location-oriented functions to appear within Facebook as the Timeline continues to roll out. Mobile users might want to keep an eye out.

Location-based services as social media

When businesses consider using location-based services, one thing to remember is that LBSs are basically yet another form of social media. And according to Shon Christy, founder and president of Christy Creative, it's imperative that businesses make sure they have the right fit for their social media outlay.

"My clients don't have the resources to waste getting their social media strategy wrong," Christy emphasized.

But an even broader issue is how businesses can use any social service, location-based or otherwise. Jack Gold, a 20-year analyst with expertise in the mobile space and founder of J. Gold Associates, has a counter viewpoint. "The notion that business can leverage consumer-facing services is a new one," Gold says.

It's not that Gold has anything in particular against social media use for businesses, but he is particularly cautious about how businesses should go about using public, non-secure networks that were most definitely not designed with businesses in mind -- or, if they were, it would be business solely on the terms of the social network in question.

"None of these networks really have corporate-level features," Gold explains. "Not without some level of enhancement."

For Gold, the focus is not on the individual networks, so much as developing a cohesive strategy that protects the company from the many pitfalls of using any social media service. Location-based services, in particular, offer unique challenges. Privacy is the most obvious concern, since customers are often rather prickly about letting their whereabouts be known.

"Governance of policies is the key problem," Gold adds. "Users and companies don't always see eye-to-eye on expectations of privacy."

This means that the development of policies around the users' privacy (and the rest of the social media interfacing) is critical if a company wants to connect to customers using these public networks.

Foursquare


Originally published on Computerworld |  Click here to read the original story.
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