2009 The Year of Social Location – 10 Geo Social Location-Aware Apps Making Waves

With Twitter’s opening of their location API to developers there’s going to be a ton of third party apps that will enable Twitter users to share location-aware information via their Twitter accounts.

This isn’t to say that you’ll now be able to geo-locate your tweets as that functionality has been enabled for some time now by a number of apps – think Brightkite, foursquare, Schmap and many others… however, what it does mean is that many other applications will be providing users with the ability to geotag their tweets and provide geo information enabling cool third party functionality. See more in the Twitter blog post at http://blog.twitter.com/2009/08/location-location-location.html.

From Twitter, the skinny… the new API will allow developers to add latitude and longitude to any tweet. The good news for users is that by default this setting will be disabled to prevent sharing too much information with the outside world. A tip, to enable your Twitter account to be location enabled see Settings then scroll down below "Location" and toggle Enable Geotagging, this will enable Twitter to communicate location information to third party developers via the API. For more about GeoTagging in Twitter see http://twitter.zendesk.com/forums/26810/entries/78525

I’m trying to think of how the addition of geo-aware tweets will change how I use Twitter and for now the top reason I can think of would be to have the ability to quickly and easily search and locate tweets that are from a specific geographic region or perhaps tweets from people that are near me etc… No doubt there’s likely many other potential uses.

So, geolocation in Twitter… there’s a number of existing, and amazing, fun apps around that enable Twitter users to share location-centric tweets (along with photos, video, music, etc…) with their followers – most also offer facebook connect as well. When you add together Twitter’s Geo support, the proliferation of GeoRSS and related support for these services from the likes of Google (google maps), Microsoft (Bing maps), and Maquest, the possibilities to share and expand your Twitter experience via location is none short of exciting! And so, In typical Top 10 fashion, here’s my Top 10 list of ways to Geo enable your tweets… enjoy! Is your favorite Geo-aware Twitter add-on not listed here?? Feel free to share some details with us (@gisuser or @lbszone) and maybe it will be included in round 2.

Social Apps to Watch

Brightkite – brightkite.com @Brightkite

Brightkite is a fun, social tool based on users’ location and enables users to see who’s nearby and what they are doing. I currently use Brightkite on iPhone although Android and S60 supported clients are also available. Firing up Brightkite causes the app to perform a hit on the user’s location. At that point the user can then check-in, this pulls a POI search of nearby places of interest where the user can select his location from the list or add the place to the list of it doesn’t exist yet… the next time he checks in at that location the POI should appear in the DB. During a check-in, if the user has pre-defined sharing to social networks, details of the check-in can be sent directly to Twitter providing a we blink url where users can see details of the check-in along with a map and notes. Brightkite also provides facebook connect for simple sharing of location information with your facebook connections as well. User Check-in seems to be the most widely used feature, although social networking with other users is also enabled as is streaming and sharing comments based on a specific event or hashtag (this was popular at an Ignite Boulder event I attended last year). I frequently check-in with a photo and so its great to know that Brightkite also provides Flickr connect so mobile photo uploads can automatically be shared on my Flickr stream as well… handy! See more at Brightkite.com and feel free to connect with yours truly at http://brightkite.com/people/gisuser


Foursquare – foursquare.com – @foursquare

One of the most popular location sharing mobile applications around the web right now is foursquare (Twitter @foursquare). Popular with gamers, foursquare provides a fun, game-like experience to users by providing points and rewards to those who use the service. The idea is to check-in and share your location and what you’re doing with your connections. Sharing gets more exciting when you connect foursquare to Twitter, enabling users to quickly share where they are and what they are doing with their network. On the gaming side, users are rewarded with points for checking in to new venues, checking in at new metropolitan areas (only several major urban centers are officially served) although check-in from anywhere is possible but a little more effort! Users accumulate points and they also collect badges for special accomplishments, for example, an Adventurer badge is awarded to a user who checks in to her 10th venue. Users that have the most check-ins at a specific location get the prestigious status of Mayor of that location… I’m currently the Mayor of Loodles coffee shop (and several other places) where I do loads of afternoon writing! Users can easily expand their foursquare network via connecting their account to Gmail, Twitter, and facebook and mobile clients are available for iPhone and Android device users. To entice users, foursquare will promote "power users" to Super User status so they can provide more information with POI updates, make edits etc… See http://foursquare.com or Twitter @foursquare
See a sample tweet at http://twitter.com/gletham/status/6316427509


Schmap Geo Tweeter – Schmap.com – @Schmap

Another fine Geo Social tool comes from the developers of the amazing local search service Schmap. Schmap publishes local guides, providing a wealth of information to visitors of many major urban centers around the Globe… access information, photos, reviews and ratings on places of interest and much more. The company also has developed a number of location sharing tools, widgets, and services including the Schmap Geo-Tweet utility. Using this service (via mobile client of PC) users can easily Tweet where they are, what they are doing, and even share a photo tied to that location. Schmap offers a TON of functionality to users and I’m never short of great things to say about their guides or their location sharing tools. Over-all, Schmap kicks-ass when it comes to usability and ease of use and it amazes me that more of my contacts aren’t using their tools… check it out and iPhone users, be sure to download the free Schmap Geo-Tweeter App! http://schmap.com/geotweet/
See an example Tweet here


Loopt - Loopt.com – @Loopt

Loopt is another fun location-sharing service designed to enable users to easily check-in and share details of what they are doing and where they are. The service, supported by most popular mobile platforms (I’m using the iPhone app) is simple to use and provides the popular "here I am" type of check-in easily shared with Twitter and facebook… the facebook connect is fun and another time saver enabling users to simultaneously share digital photos with their network of followers. Not my usual check-in tool, although it is very simple and fun! See http://www.loopt.com/, follow them on Twitter @loopt


Dopplr – Dopplr.com – @Dopplr

Dopplr is a cool service known as the Social Atlas, designed to connect users and enable them to share their travel plans and trips in a social setting (recall Dopplr was purchased by Nokia). Users store details of planned trips and share them with social contacts, enabling them to easily see which of their contacts will be near them when they travel or vice-versa, inform a user when someone they know will be traveling to their area… imagine being notified that you and Bob will be within 5 miles of each other on January 5th as an example. Similar to many location sharing services, Dopplr also provides a handy facebook and Twitter connect so users can expand their location sharing with their entire network of friends and colleagues (if desired). A handy feature enabling users to expand the usability of Dooplr is the ability to connect to contacts from other networks (facebook, twitter, linkedIn, flickr and more) and invite them to join you on Dopplr. See http://dopplr.com or on Twitter @dopplr


Flook – Flook.com

Flook is a relatively new location-sharing application for iPhone designed to enable users to grab a photo, create a custom greeting card with it, add text and a custom design, then share it with Twitter, providing users with quick access to view the fun card along with location information complemented with the requisite google map! I give this app high marks for its ease of use, fun-ness (is that a word) and creativity. One thing I noticed was that the location tagging is extracted at the location where the card is uploaded, not where the photo was taken… be careful as the two may not always be the same (imagine creating and uploading a card from home with a photo from another location). See Flook in the iTunes store for more into. See here for a sample post from Flook to Twitter http://twitter.com/gletham/status/6319659798 – although this isn’t an item "for sale" you get the idea.. there are a number of sample card types and descriptions available.. kind of fun although I can’t wait for a more mature release. Flook takes the iPhone camera and adds some very cool and useful functionality… loads of fun!

GoWalla – Gowalla.com – @Gowalla

Gowalla is a very cool, fun social location enabled service that appears quite similar to foursquare. Using the app, users are encouraged to check-in from their favorite places, or add details of places to build the database (crowd-sourcing). I was first turned onto Gowalla via a Twitter message telling me about their iPhone application – every good social location service needs a good mobile client! Once registered, users check-in fro places they visit and then can share details with their friends via twitter and facebook. Users have a passport and receive stamps and rewards when they check-in (some venues offer prizes to frequent visitors although I’ve yet to locate an award near me). Socializing aside, users can simply use the feature rich database as a local search tool to explore and locate places near them. For example, search your ZIP code for fun nightlife, coffee shops, and more. Finally, a feature I really liked was the ability for Gowalla to scrape my Twitter and facebook contacts so I can become Gowalla friends with some of my existing social connections. Users can create, store and share "trips"… imagine sharing a pub crawl with users, identifying a number of hot local brew pubs that they have to check out… way cool! I can imagine doing something like this of perhaps crating a Gowalla scavenger hunt where users have to complete a trip… nice! Users can share their passport [home] page with others so they can see where they have been and what they like to do. As a bonus your twitter stream is also served via widget to your passport… very nice! Gowalla has been backed by a who’s who in social media and the web2.0 – Ron Conway, Kevin Rose, Gary Vaynerchuk, Shervin Pishevar, Jason Calacanis and Chris Sacca – and just recently scored another round of funding… (see http://www.lbszone.com/content/view/5686/2/) I suspect we’ll be hearing lots about Gowalla in the near future! Check out my passport and friend me at http://gowalla.com/users/gisuser


Waze – waze.com – @waze

Waze is first and foremost a free, mobile navigation service, however, it’s social media connect capabilities are fantastic and bring navigation and social media together for a fabulous experience.. and best of all it’s totally free! Wazers are essentially a fleet of mobile-enabled crowd sourcing individuals who are provided with a fabulous free service in exchange for staying connected and sharing their data updates while driving the roads around them. Data from users are used to update the street maps and enhanced information like road conditions, traffic, obstacles, police traps, can also be provided (shouted) by users. Wazers can also add or edit road information by recording road segments while driving, then adding them to the network if they don’t exist. The service is complemented by the additional of value-added live services and information including police reports, traffic updates, and accidents, helping users avoid congestion to save time and money. The latest release of waze provides users with even more social media connect capabilities with the addition of more Twitter shout outs (users can tweet reports, destination ETA, and road munching updates) and perhaps coolest of all, users of waze can check-in via foursquare when they reached their destination… a perfect addition to the service. Waze is a fabulous service (did I mention turn by turn audio navigation tips are provided) and is a fabulous solution to not only save you time but to keep you connected with your Twitter contacts and share useful information and road reports with them. See www.waze.com or @waze on Twitter.


iMapMyRun – http://www.imapmy.com

Outdoor enthusiasts and athletes will love this one. iMapMyRun as similar to Nokia Sports Tracker for those of you familiar with that fabulous app for Symbian device users from Nokia. The app enables users to easily store and share their running routes while logging important information for those who wish to maintain a log of their runs, walks, or what have you. The app is quite simple, the user elects to start a new workout (logging it as a walk, run, cycle, or other) and initiates the device’s GPS  to get started. The service keeps track of the users position, storing the route and the workout history in the user’s log. Once stored the user has access to view the route on a map (a vertical profile is created as well) as well as information about the journey like distance, time, and average speed. The app comes up short of Nokia Sports Tracker when it comes to sharing photos and videos captured along the journey, however, the Twitter sharing feature is quite cool. Users have the option of connecting the application wit their twitter account so they can share a tweet at the workout start, finish, and even at set intervals… imagine a friend running a marathon and sending out auto-tweets every mile… very cool! The application is provided as a free download, however, there are optional, enhanced features available to hard-core users. See http://www.imapmy.com/


Note, iMapMyRun may not be "the killer" sports tracking app, however, there’s room for some savvy developer to come up with a great app similar to Nokia’s Sports Tracker – something that GPS tracks a run or walk, enables tagging and sharing of videos and photos, then embedding the map and sharing via social media… anyone developing this??

– www.everlater.com – @Everlater

EverLater is a relatively new social web service enabling users to create and share a detailed travel journal. Imagine this, you create a trip and document your travels using the mobile application while away enjoying yourself. Keep tabs or cool sights and sounds along your journey, documenting the who,what,where,when, why and how of all the cool things you do. Store POI locations along with notes and photos… all the while, your travel journal is stored safely for you, geolocated for convenience and enhanced usability. Once you’ve finished documenting your trip (perhaps a business trip, vacation, or even a trip to your local coffee shop) you then store it using the application and optionally share it with the world via facebook connect, Twitter, or even archive it online and share the we blink from your blog. You can secure an EverLater account online at everlater.com, search for the mobile app in the tunes store and start documenting and sharing your trips! See this sample "trip" I stored from Fort Collins, Colorado http://www.everlater.com/glennt/fort-collins – follow the team on Twitter @EverLater


This list is by no means complete, however, if social networking is your thing and mobile gadgets get you going then social location should excite you. There’s no doubt that for anyone excited about social networking and the above mentioned social networking services are a fabulous start enabling you to document and share your travel experiences with your friends and colleagues via Twitter and facebook. Mobile apps supported by location provisioning are adding tremendous value to life streamers and those that are hooked on social media and social networking, particularly as they tend to add a valuable dimension to the social experience enabled via location.

These are just 10 of the hundreds of cool, social location-aware applications available to users. Each has it’s strengths and perhaps some weaknesses and the app will appeal to users based on their needs and personal preferences. Some are in my mind more useful and cooler than others, however, all of the above hold tremendous promise for opportunity and are likely ripe for turning the corner and generating revenues for the developers.  Applications that support the full spectrum of popular, mobile operating system (iPhone, Symbian, Android, Blackberry) will be the biggest winners and the most likely to be embraced by the user.

Twitter Buys In

Look for further location services for Twitter, facebook and other social apps. Just this past week Mixer Labs, developers of the Twitter Geo Location API, are now part of Twitter, having been scooped up by the social media powerhouse. This from the Twitter blog… The Mixer Labs crew has been working on harnessing the power of local information for a couple years and just recently launched GeoAPI (See http://www.geoapi.com/) , a comprehensive service for helping developers build geolocation-aware applications. As of today, they’re part of Twitter and will be working to combine the contextual relevance of location to tweets. We want to know What’s happening?, and more precisely, Where is it happening? As a dramatic example, twittering “Earthquake!” alone is not as informative as “Earthquake!” coupled with your current location. Great news and another great plug for Geo Tech! See more details HERE

Enjoy the apps!

Interesting to note that while writing this piece Google was making a play to acquire Yelp… perhaps even more interesting is the fact that Yelp (think restaurant reviews, and social sharing of interesting places) turned down a $500 mill offer from Google. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this may in fact be THE stupid move of 2009… way to go Yelp… do you honestly think a better offer is going to come your way soon??



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Editor (18230 Posts)

Glenn is a geographer and a GIS professional with over 20 years experience in the industry. He's the co-founder of GISuser and several other technology web publications.

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