In nontechnical terms, geosocial networking
seems to be the offspring of Facebook, Twitter and a GPS-enabled phone. And this critter is growing rapidly. As new applications such as Google Buzz, Foursquare and Gowalla crop up, increasing numbers of users are sharing their activities, from shopping to dining to drinking, with other members of location-based communities. Via smart phones (or old-fashioned text/mobile Web), participants are linking up with existing friends and finding potential new ones while sharing comments, photos and other media that are linked by geotagging to a specific place. In other words, it’s social networking in 3-D. Not surprisingly, there are some privacy concerns. While shielding information is usually an option, PleaseRobMe.com recently sprung up to illustrate how easy it is for prospective bandits to discover unattended homes. And even if security weren’t an issue, people may not want their boss knowing they were at a bar until 3 a.m. on a Tuesday. The best advice? As with all new technology, use whatever you’re comfortable with. Here are six geosocial networking sites vying for your attention:
Equal parts friend finder, city guide and treasure hunt, this Texas-based application lets users alert their compadres when they check in at locations in 7,500 different cities. Creative pins are given out for completing trips (like hitting six places in Nashville for the Honkeytonk Stomp pin), and other digital treats can be swapped among users.
This New York–based application allows more than a quarter million users to share their whereabouts, exchange tips (which inevitably seem to involve food), unlock themed badges (earn Crunked for hitting four bars in one night) and compete to become a so-called mayor of frequently visited locations.
The latest step in Google’s march toward global dominance, Google Buzz transforms Gmail into an enormous social network. The mobile element is Nearby, which uses GPS technology to collect user-generated commentary on locations or events so other people in the area can find out which restaurants have fantastic duck confit or which bands could use more practice.
First made available in 2006 to Sprint Boost Mobile customers, this application turns phones into social compasses by showing real-time locations of friends and events, as well as dining recommendations (thanks to Yelp and Tasting Table reviews). Privacy controls ensure that sensitive data can be viewed only by friends.
A stripped-down social network that eschews virtual collectibles and digital trinkets, Brightkite encourages users to share locations, upload photos and swap mini-blogs based on places they visit. Applications exist for most smart phones (the version for Palm is known as Parafoil), and a nifty augmented-reality browser on Layar displays Brightkite info in 3-D through the camera display.
MYTOWN BY BOOYAH!
This free iPhone game involves buying and selling locations with virtual dollars and then collecting rewards when other players check in. Site creators claim MyTown’s one million users have checked into every U.S. location that shows up on Google Maps , but, however sprawling, the app is more about exchanging digital currency than meeting people in real life.