The new frontier for social media networks is at our fingertips. Literally. More and more cell phone users are switching to smart phones, giving rise to location-based mobile social networking. While location-based applications have long been available on the shelves of the iTunes App Store, they’ve largely collected dust, lacking the bells and whistles to keep people from “checking-in” on a regular basis.
Loopt leaves much to be desired
Such was the case with Loopt, the seasoned veteran in the battle for smart phone networking app supremacy. Introduced in 2005, Loopt relies primarily (if not solely) on the attraction of keeping tabs on your friends’ coordinates at any given time. Later generations of the application, along with similar competitors, have imported information from Yelp or CitySearch in order to present users with a list of dining or drinking options nearby as well.
Foursquare leads the competition
Other applications have introduced new weapons in response to the primitive GPS-based technology of Loopt. Most prominently, Foursquare challenges its network to collect points at check-ins and earn badges and mayorships, complete with scoreboards and term limits. Now available in over 100 metropolitan areas, Foursquare is the leader of the pack in location-based mobile networking, as the application synthesizes information from Yelp and enables friends to meet-up or share tips in absentia. Furthermore, as the size of the network has grown, so too have the number of offers and coupons up for grabs. Even some forward-thinking bars offer a free drink to the rightful Foursquare mayor of their location. The rapid check-in and point scoring system does have its shortcomings as well: as successful as Foursquare is in New York City, don’t hold your breath waiting for its arrival in Branson, Missouri.
New challengers offer innovation to the location-based app
Behind Foursquare stand a few guerilla insurgents aiming to displace the reigning king of location-based networks. Buzzd is aimed at twenty-somethings, as it seeks to provide its network with the bars and clubs that are trending or popular in real-time. Gowalla brings a populist approach to the application, allowing for users to design tours through Central Park’s main attractions or Texas BBQ pits, thus encouraging more network members to compete for notoriety and respect, rather than points.
A battle between location-based networks lies ahead, but so too do new competitors and innovations to existing networks. As this competitor only makes applications better, location-based social networks will continue to innovate and incorporate new strategy—representing the future, portable portal to consumers.