There's an article in eWeek that discusses the potential integration of Google's somewhat controversial Buzz service with the pre-existing Latitude friend finder:
[Google PM Steve] Lee said that while these features showed how Google is "pushing boundaries in terms of sharing location," they are hardly the last stop for innovation with Latitude. "We're still investing in Latitude and we think it's extremely important. You'll see more and more great stuff around Latitude."
"Down the road, there might be points of integration between Buzz and Latitude, but they are separate products and have different use cases." Lee declined to provide specifics, but noted, "we're thinking of what apps we can build that have certain compelling use cases and how can location enhance those apps."
Google now has many location-oriented "point solutions" (Buzz for mobile, Local for mobile Web, Maps & Street View, Navigation, Latitude, etc.). As Lee says Buzz and Latitude are different offerings with different use cases; however the company should find a way to combine them into one or at least cross-pollinate them.
I imagine that Google's view is that these are effectively all "layers" within Google Maps and so they are integrated in a sense. I would also imagine -- though Google won't share specific numbers -- that Latitude has lost some momentum to newer rivals in the market: Foursquare, et al. Indeed, Yelp, Foursquare and the other location-aware mobile offerings have both a way to notify friends of your location and also see what others have said about the particular location or business.
Google also now owns Aardvark, which offers a real-time advice or recommendations channel and has a very heavy local or real-world dimension. How the company will integrate that (or not) into these other layers remains to be seen.
Google has a kind of embarrassment of local riches but it needs to bring more of these capabilities together in an elegant and useful way.
According to data released by comScore, 30% of US smartphone users access social media sites via mobile browser (they're not counting access via apps in the data). Facebook says it has 100 million are "active" mobile users around the globe. That number is destined to grow, as is the number of mobile Twitter users.
Here's the top-level comScore data:
In January 2010, 11.1 percent of all mobile phone users accessed a social networking site via mobile browser, an increase of 4.6 percentage points from the previous year. Much of this growth has been driven by smartphone owners, 30.8 percent of whom accessed social networking sites on their mobile browsers, up more than 8 percentage points on the year. By comparison, just 6.8 percent of feature phone users accessed social networking sites on their mobile phones.
Here's Nielsen's parallel demographic view of US mobile social networking (in the aggregate):
Note that the female audience is larger and that older users comprise more of the mobile social network user base. The largest single group is over 35 (probably owing to the economics of mobile data plans). However what's very clear is that mobile devices are becoming a primary tool for social media access and status updates for ever larger numbers of people.
AT&T's first Android phone will be the Backflip, made by Motorola. It's basically a CLIQ, with a few tweaks.
The interesting twist is that the carrier is making partner Yahoo! the default search provider on the handset and not Google. This appears to be a first, certainly in the US. There's apparently also discussion that some of the native Google apps (e.g., GMail) could be stripped out as well.
This type of substitution was certainly contemplated for Android. The thing is it hasn't happened in the market until now. Will others (OEMs, carriers) see this and make a similar move? AT&T and Google are intense rivals over net neutrality. And Google is creeping into AT&T's turf as an ISP with its "dark fiber" broadband "experiment."
VentureBeat surfaced a patent that Google was awarded last week: "Determining and/or using location information in an ad system." The original application was filed in early 2004. The patent appears to cover using location as a primary factor in determining the relevancy of advertising served.
It's not specific to the PC or mobile and would presumably cover both areas. My non-technical reading of the patent suggests that this covers ranking ads based on the location of the user and/or proximity of the user to the desired object/site/product.
Here's some of the mind-numbing discussion in the application itself:
Different geolocation information may have different scope, and some geolocation information may contain other geolocation information. Generally, for purposes of determining ad relevancy, a match of more specific geolocation information (e.g., town) may be weighted more heavily than a match of less specific geolocation information (e.g., country). Generally, for purposes of ad scoring, the most specific geolocation price and/or performance information that matches will be used. That is, if an ad has price and performance information for both San Diego and California, if the request geolocation information indicates an end user in San Diego, the San Diego price and performance information will be used. If on the other hand, the request geolocation information indicates an end user in Sacramento, the California price and performance information will be used. If the request geolocation information indicates an end user in Omaha, Nebr., neither will be used.
There are many different ways to score ads. Some examples include (a) using a distance between a presence of the advertiser and the end user, (b) using a local availability of an item sought by the end user, (c) using an advertiser attributes (e.g. a location of the advertiser's closest retail outlet), etc. Ads can be ordered and/or priced using language criteria (e.g., query/display language, information derived about user or advertiser's language such as location of user in Japantown).
Although some examples above used geolocation information as a current location of the user, the geolocation information may be a location that the user is interested in. For example, if a search query includes a zip code, it may be inferred that the user is interested in a location defined by the zip code, or located within in the zip code. If the search query includes a city name, region name, and/or a state name, it may be inferred that the user is interested in a location defined by such a name(s). Thus, for example, a user may be interested in an area which may be the same as, or different from, the current area of the user. The targeting, scoring, content, and/or performance tracking of ads may be affected using a location of interest.
There are a number of location-oriented patents that have been awarded online for consumer search and in mobile. Companies such as Microsoft, Geomas (patent troll), Local.com and JumpTap, among a couple others, all hold local or local-mobile patents of one sort or another. One day some of these folks will be compelled to duke it out in court to determine whose patents trump the others.
This one is quite broad however.
Loopt has been scrambling to reinvent itself and gain traction -- despite its longevity in LBS -- in order to not be made totally irrelevant by more visible competitors: Facebook, Yelp, Foursquare and mobile couponers. While it's still possible that Loopt would find the right mix of offerings or the right formula to succeed as an independent company that train has probably left the station.
TechCrunch, which loves to report rumors and tech gossip that also often turn out to be correct, is saying that Facebook is doing due diligence on Loopt. Facebook is the dominant mobile social network and a general force to be reckoned with. I recently speculated that it was only a matter of time before the company became a mobile ad network or platform.
I had previously predicted that Facebook would buy Foursquare but that looks less likely now because of Foursquare's deals with large media companies. It still could happen. But if Facebook were to buy Loopt what exactly would it be buying? It would be potentially getting some mobile development expertise and some technolgy as well as some carrier relationships (but it already has those).
It wouldn't be getting and doesn't need mobile users, with 100 million active mobile users of the site. Thus the price is likely to be a big sticking point. Loopt has raised just under $20 million. Loopt's investors will likely want something approaching or exceeding $100 million. My guess is that what Facebook gets from Loopt won't be valued at that level. We'll see.
Loopt will ultimately have to sell itself because I think its time has come and gone. I could always be wrong of course.
According to the latest State of the Mobile Web report from Opera, Google enjoys mobile search dominance in numbers generally consistent with its lead and share on the PC Internet. Yahoo!, however, is stronger in mobile than it is on the PC. Bing has a tiny presence by comparison.
One thing to keep in mind, however, is that these data are drawn from Opera Mini users and don't capture the iPhone and most activity on the other smartphone platforms. However I can tell you that directionally it's the same on most smartphone platforms.
Below are the customary data from Opera on top sites and handsets. The search share data are at the bottom. The full report is available here.
Opera has developed a version of its mobile browser for the iPhone and will be submitting it for approval shortly. It was demonstrated at 3GSM in Barcelona and received rave reviews. Apple will have a potential anti-trust issue in the US and Europe on its hands if it declines to allow third party browsers on the device.
Placecast was recently featured in a piece in the NY Times about "geo-fencing" and retailer The North Face. The company was using Placecast's system to send SMS alerts and marketing messages to users (already opted-in) who were within a certain proximity to a North Face retail outlet.
Today the company is broadly announcing the availability of this capability, which has been in trials with a number of US retailers:
Placecast's ShopAlerts service is a retailer marketing solution. Retailers leverage the technology to create their own version of the service; then consumers choose the brands they love, and may opt-in through many ways - at the store, online, via text-message, mobile website, or social network (like Facebook). Once ShopAlerts is activated, consumers go about their day and the service automatically alerts them when they are near a location that they are interested in or when the brand is offering sales and specials.
Unlike many new mobile advertising innovations available only as applications on smartphones, ShopAlerts works on any phone, which is a benefit for retailers who wish to reach the 196 million Americans who do not own smartphones but are interested in such shopping deals . . .
Four retailers are on board at launch: SONIC, American Eagle Outfitters, and REI. Here's a video that explains and demonstrates the service:
This is the "Starbucks coupon" scenario that people have been talking about for years. The difference here is that people opt-in to receive these alerts so they're not mysterious spam. But they are transmitted when you're within a certain distance from a store. As a result they're relevant in at least two ways:
This is location-based marketing but it's not "advertising" in the sense that nobody's bought an ad placement on a network or website. This is the blind spot in most of the mobile ad forecasts out there. SMS and direct marketing services delivered to your phone are often not considered in the major mobile ad forecasts in the market. However this will be a huge area for both retailers and other local businesses as well as consumers.
Placecast conducted a survey among consumers who participated in the ShopAlerts trials and found the following:
The New York Times offers a really interesting piece about how the outdoor equipment retailer North Face intends to use proximity based marketing (via SMS) or "geo-fencing" to promote sales and products to consumers within a particular neighborhood area.
According to the story in the Times:
For now, the North Face will send texts about promotions, like a free water bottle with a purchase, and new arrivals, because the company’s gear is heavily seasonal. A text message would say, for example, “TNF: The new spring running apparel has hit the stores! Check it out @ TNF Downtown Seattle.”
1020 Placecast is the platform/enabler behind the campaign:
Placecast created 1,000 geo-fences in and around New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Boston, cities where the North Face has many stores and areas that get a lot of snow or rain, so the company can tailor its messages to the weather. In urban areas, the fences are up to half a mile around stores, and in suburban areas they are up to a mile around stores.
The North Face campaign is an opt-in SMS campaign, which are relatively common today. The novel element is the fact that location will trigger delivery of the message when people enter one of the zones that Placecast has set up.
These types of campaigns will be highly successful by their nature: people have opted-in and the highly local aspect will very likely drive people into stores. Placecast has an even more sophisticated notion of how to combine geography, demographics, context and time of day. But as you do more targeting you narrow your audience -- greater precision and response but smaller reach.
Mobile marketing and advertising is a potentially much more precise and specific instrument than online (from a push standpoint). It will be very interesting to see how this campaign turns out (if North Face will allow Placecast to share that with the world).
There's a nice summary (and video) of Facebook VP Chamath Palihapitiya's speech at the Mobile World Congress (via TechCrunch) in which he discusses Facebook mobile growth and engagement and makes a pitch to work with carriers. Facebook says it already has relationships with 200 carriers globally (compare to Yahoo, which says it works with roughly 80 but with the potential reach of 800 million).
Here are some quick facts from the talk:
Palihapitiya pitched carriers on the idea that Facebook would help them grow data revenues.
Facebook's mobile usage and growth are nothing short of amazing. But let's talk about what may be coming sooner rather than later: Facebook as a mobile ad network and one that offers location (and potentially demographics) as part of that proposition.
There are currently no ads on Facebook's apps, mobile websites or SMS. I would almost bet my life that's going to change in the near-to-medium term. Facebook will be clever and careful about integrating advertising into mobile, mindful of the potential to alienate mobile users. However the mobile ad opportunity may be at least as big for Facebook as it is on the PC.
Facebook is about to make $1 billion in ads on the PC; however neither I nor anyone I know pays attention to and/or clicks on them. However I do hear from marketers anecdotally that Facebook ad targeting does work. But offers and mobile advertising from SMBs and brands tied to location is a potentially huge opportunity for the company.
I think it's just a matter of time before we see Facebook start to roll out an offering. And, on arrival, the company would be as large or larger than any existing mobile ad network.
Loopt, an early friend finder and mobile social network, has been totally eclipsed by Facebook in the latter category and is suffering at the hands of fast-growing local social gaming newcomers, FourSquare, GoWalla and MyTown, as a friend finder.
Recognizing its inevitable defeat as a pure social network it next tried to become Yelp. But Pelago's Whrrl already tried and failed at that. Yelp is doing a great job of being Yelp in mobile.
Seeking other, alternative ways to gain traction Loopt introduced Loopt Mix (dating) and Pulse (feed aggregation + recommendations). Loopt is on all major carriers but the company is still suffering an identity crisis and trying to find its way as the market shifts quickly around it.
Loopt recently did a deal with couponer Mobile Spinach. And now it's done a deal with food and wine email publisher Tasting Table to add high-end "foodie" content to Loopt. I'm afraid this isn't going to help much either.
After Google's failed acquisition of Yelp and on the heels of its launch of Buzz, Google has agreed to acquire "social search engine" Aardvark for $50M (per TechCrunch). A deal had been rumored for several weeks. I received confirmation also directly from the founders.
I'm a fan of Aardvark. (See the discussion of the company's distribution of queries.) It doesn't work in every situation, but it often does and when it does, it works better and more efficiently (in mobile in particular) than Google. In a vaguely ironic sort of way, this is a return to "Google Answers," a peer-to-peer paid answers service that was shut down following the rise of the free Yahoo Answers service a few years ago.
The acquisition also marks yet another -- and perhaps the most radical -- step in Google's attempted transformation from "machine" to human-powered network, or at least one partially powered by humans.
Google will undoubtedly geocode all of the Aardvark questions/answers and push them out to Place Pages and, perhaps, Buzz (at least in mobile). Indeed, there are a range of ways that the company could integrate and utilize what is effectively a loosely knit social network of people. Among them it could push Aardvark answers into search results in the same way it indexes any content. It could also prompt people to ask a person (Aardvark) if the algo results didn't satisfy.
kgb offered a couple of commercials (that I saw) last night during the Super Bowl. I enjoyed the sumo wrestler spot especially and thought it was effective. Unlike many commercials broadcast during the game the humor and content of the spot was directly tied to the brand and the service.
This morning ChaCha put out a release that found the Doritos commercials were the favorites of the teen and young adult ChaCha user base:
ChaCha, the service that allows users to go online, call or text questions on mobile phones and receive free answers within minutes, says that a poll of its users, primarily teens and young adults, who asked questions during the Super Bowl last night showed that their favorite commercials were for Doritos. The ones they disliked most were for Go Daddy and the one most talked about, as measured by text traffic, was Denny's, mostly asking where was the nearest location of the restaurant to collect their free meal on Tuesday. Inquiries about the teams involved also skyrocketed with 60,000 (about 10x the norm) asked throughout Super Bowl Sunday.
Here's the kgb "I Surrender" commercial.
In general most of the commercials last night I thought were pretty weak. "Green police" (Audi) was another commercial I liked quite a bit.
Mobile ad exchange Mobclix announced that it would add Nielsen PRIZM and Nielsen ConneXions audience segmentation data and capabilities into the Mobclix mobile exchange. According to the release, what this enables is the following:
By bringing traditional marketing techniques to mobile advertising through Mobclix Complete, ad network partners will now enable mobile advertisers to reach over 150 unique audience segments resulting in improved conversions over legacy mobile solutions. Mobile application developers and publishers will reap the benefits of 20-100 percent CPMs higher than the market . . .
Under the terms of this agreement, Mobclix will be able to resell PRIZM and ConneXions to mobile ad networks and publishers. The anonymous user data from both PRIZM and ConneXions will then be mapped and applied to Mobclix's open marketplace platform for buying and selling mobile ad inventory. Coupled with the reach of top mobile application publishers, advertisers will benefit from this comprehensive and insightful data to help find, discover, determine, learn and better market to their audiences.
These data and capabilities move beyond simple demographics into "lifestyle" segments. 1020 Placecast uses the PRIZM data as well in its mobile targeting.
The caveat that must be stated here is that for audience slicing and dicing to be meaningful you need massive reach, which is why allowing reselling/redistribution of these capabilities is significant. The issue of providing greater mobile reach is what makes mobile exchanges and marketplaces important.
These Nielsen data and targeting capabilities were basically created for direct mail targeting across the US by Zip and household. However, in a mobile context, if you're looking for "hipsters" (or single moms or whatever) in a certain geography (e.g., Tribeca, New York), you start to slice the audiences too thin for most large agencies and marketers today. (The objectives of LBS or SMS marketing would be different.) Brands and agencies complain today about not being able to get enough reach with mobile in general, without adding in 150 more ways to slice up audiences.
The fact that these data/segments were tied originally to households is paradoxical somewhat because mobile users are mostly on the go (the iPad will be a bit different). You wouldn't necessarily know who mobile users are/were except by their location and expressed behavior or "needs" (e.g., search queries). Some marketers, for example, have targeted iPhone or BlackBerry users as a proxy for certain demographic characteristics in the past.
Carriers also have this type of data about their customers and I suspect that they'll make much more of it available to marketers soon. JumpTap accesses carrier demographic information for some of its ad targeting. However, there are potential privacy issues and concerns that will be the subject of debate; but that's a much longer discussion.
This slicing of audiences begins to be meaningful once they become larger (as they are becoming) and perhaps once you've got cross-platform buying between online and mobile, as Mobclix is starting to do with AOL's Advertising.com and Tribal Fusion-Greystripe. Then you can have an agency make a demographically targeted buy across online and mobile simultaneously. That's when this will start to shine potentially.
There's also the branding and direct response divide; though digital obiously bridges that somewhat. A "brand" ad can have DR elements (e.g., sign up to receive alerts; find the nearest dealer, etc). The cross-platform scenario I'm describing is more likely a big brand play (with DR elements as suggested) than one aimed at getting people to take specific action now (i.e., an LBS promotion). However, a movie studio targeting a specific audience for a film could use this system quite effectively as one example.
The capabilities that these data and targeting capabilities represent are somewhat ahead of the market in my view. The market will eventually catch up but it's not yet this sophisticated.
Here's the much discussed statement from Apple to iPhone developers about location-based advertising:
The Core Location framework allows you to build applications which know where your users are and can deliver information based on their location, such as local weather, nearby restaurants, ATMs, and other location-based information.
If you build your application with features based on a user's location, make sure these features provide beneficial information. If your app uses location-based information primarily to enable mobile advertisers to deliver targeted ads based on a user's location, your app will be returned to you by the App Store Review Team for modification before it can be posted to the App Store.
Here's the prevailing interpretation of this directive:
"Looks like Apple is going to keep location-based advertising to themselves"
The speculation then proceeds that Quattro will be the sole provider of LBS ads to iPhone apps. I believe the above reading is incorrect. Instead I would argue that Apple is saying "don't just use location for ads alone":
make sure these features provide beneficial information. If your app uses location-based information primarily to enable mobile advertisers to deliver targeted ads based on a user's location, your app will be returned to you . . .
Here "beneficial information" is non-advertising content and services. At a time when Apple needs to court and retain developers it would alienate them (even more) to compell use of only Quattro advertising or otherwise preclude developers from serving LBS ads.
Skyhook Wireless has done a very interesting analysis that seeks to reveal how many of the thousands of location-enabled apps are available across multiple smartphone platforms. Curiously there are only 43 it turns out. According to the report:
There are nearly 6,000 iPhone location apps, 900 on Android and 300 on BlackBerry. Only 43 of these apps are available in all three stores. Of these, only six are paid. Each of these six paid apps, detailed on the next page, has a distinct per-platform price point. These apps are always significantly more expensive on Blackberry than the counterpart versions of the same paid app on iPhone and Android. For example, Wikiango is offered for free on the iPhone and for $19.99 on Blackberry.
The most fascinating aspect of this, beyond the lack of overlap, is variable pricing for the same apps. BlackBerry users are getting stuck, it would appear, with much higher prices for the same apps. Here are three "case stuides" from Skyhook showing these price differences by platform:
As shown above, there's a $10 difference between the cost of the Zagat app on the iPhone/Android ($9.99) and BlackBerry ($19.99). Why is that? It may have to do with the demographics of the RIM user population and its legacy "enterprise user" base. Developers may simply believe they can charge more. There may be another explanation, but it's not evident.
More generally Skyhook also shows a comparison of free vs. paid apps across the three platforms. In the aggregate the iPhone has the most paid LBS apps, which is partly a function of having more apps in general:
Free DA provider Jingle Networks (800-Free-411) has launched iPhone and Android apps. They're generally useful and visually appealing but otherwise unremarkable, directory style apps. The noteworthy thing is that the company is seeking to grow volume and extend the brand through these apps. It also offers additional advertising opportunities for Jingle in mobile.
Jingle says that it does about 15 million calls per month or 180 million per year, compared with billions of calls annually in the US directory assistance market. Jingle is arguably the best known of the "free DA" providers, followed by Google's Goog 411 service. The most complete is Bing 411, powered by Tellme.
Somewhat strangely, the public has not raced to adopt these services as once was expected (despite the money savings they offer). Lack of awareness is one factor, as is "inertia" around the number 411. Yet traditional directory assistance volumes also are in significant decline in the US. The decline of landlines and the rise of smartphones are likely also directly affecting traditional DA. Smartphones in particular make content and information available to users that far exceeds what is typically offered on a DA call.
kgb, which operates a "wholesale DA" business as well as a consumer-facing information services in the US and Europe, has reacted to the market with clever "reinventions" of the traditional offering on the iPhone (kgb answers and Knowtopia), which adds a game-like dimension to the service. The company is also doing Super Bowl advertising in an effort to further build awareness.
Verizon just launched VZ Navigator 5.0. New and improved features include:
The most interesting thing here is Facebook integration:
The service is now integrated with Facebook, allowing users to keep up with their friends, family and social networks by updating their Facebook statuses directly through VZ Navigator, with the option to include and share their locations.
It's this kind of value-add and expanded feature set that is key to the product's survival. Because it costs money ($9.99) and because the future of navigation is generally going to be free (see, Android 2.0 and Nokia), this product likely cannot survive absent big feature enhancements and price drops ($4.99 is probably sustainable or as part of a "bundle" with a more expensive data plan like Sprint provides).
Putting aside the fact that there isn't an Android version available (Droid is a Verizon handset), there's no reason to purchase this if you're using a Google phone. I've been using Google Navigation and it works very well. That means the addressable market is Windows Mobile and RIM handsets.
That's a fair number of handsets but a thriving business it does not make.
Yelp adds check-ins, Facebook "is working on a Foursquare-Killer." How will the crafty location game/social net survive amid better known and more visible rivals? We're seeing how, first in a partnership with Harvard and now in a much more significant partnership with Bravo TV (owned by NBCU, in turn owned by Comcast).
According to the NY Times' story:
Starting Monday, Bravo will begin offering Foursquare players “badges” and special prizes when viewers visit more than 500 Bravo locations. The locations will be picked by Bravo to correspond with select Bravo shows including “The Real Housewives,” “The Millionaire Matchmaker,” “Top Chef,” “Kell on Earth,” “Top Chef Masters” and “Shear Genius.”
This is the way FourSquare becomes "mainstream" (my persistent complaint/critique about the service), generates revenue and stays ahead of rivals. Forget about selling coupons to SMBs, which isn't really scalable for the startup. This is a much, much bigger opportunity.
It's appropriate that I just wrote about QR codes and the way they extend the value of traditional media and make them more dynamic. Here's an analogous function for TV -- a way to engage viewer-users in the real world when they're not watching TV, and extend the value of the brands involved.
Again from the Times' article:
“We really want to tap into the power of Foursquare by engaging their audiences and bringing our Bravo viewers these unique experiences on a national level,” said Ellen Stone, Bravo’s senior vice president for marketing. Mrs. Stone said Bravo would start creating on-air TV promotions telling viewers how to play the Bravo-enhanced features of Foursquare.
This is huge for FourSquare and puts them on the path toward acquisition. Other networks and shows are probably calling Dennis Crowley right now.
CNet showcases Microsoft Tag, a nouveau QR code for traditional media publishers and products. Most QR code systems, including Microsoft Tag, require a download of software that can read the 2D barcode. On smartphones this is not the problem it once was. New market entrant JagTag doesn't require specialized software.
Microsoft Tag works with feature phones that have a camera as well.
There are lots of companies in this 2D barcode space and lots of proprietary formats. Standardization would push the whole industry forward. Microsoft may have success with Tag because it's, well, Microsoft. Companies such as Geovector and NeoMedia have patents in this area and we'll probably see litigation eventually.
Putting all that aside, this phenomenon of "hyperlinking the real world," is going to be massive -- capital M. Phenomena like SMS marketing and QR codes/Tag proliferation could actually move much faster than "mobile advertising" overall. Because they help measure consumer response as well as make traditional advertising more dynamic -- you can put anything you want behind a Tag including video, websites or coupons -- industry and publishers will adopt these technologies in the very near term. Indeed, they already are.
People and most industry observers don't realize how pervasive this will be in say three years, provided that there's some standardization that helps remove uncertainty over which system to use. Consumers are already using traditional barcode readers in stores to get price and reviews information. I've both done this and witnessed this extensively (over the past Xmas shopping season).
Imagine a code/Tag on every product, in stores on displays, on TV, in newspapers and magazines, vending machines, yellow pages directories, outdoor ads (e.g., movie posters). These codes will be absolutely everywhere. It's just a matter of time.
As a side note, we're also likely to see 2D barcodes integrated into location gaming in the very near future . . .
Facebook is the dominant "mobile social network." We know this from Opera, Nielsen, our surveys and other third party data. We know for example that more than 70 million Facebook regularly access the site on a mobile device. No other network appears close (notwithstanding GroundTruth's assertion that MySpace is the largest mobile social network).
Silicon Alley Insider now reports that "Facebook Is Working On A Foursquare-Killer." As a digression it's lamentable that "Fill-in-the-blank Killer" has to appear in every third technology headline. Having said that, here's the relevant part of the discussion:
A source briefed on the matter tells us Facebook is working on a feature that will allow users who access the network from mobile devices to "check-in" and broadcast their current location to all their friends.
If Facebook does add check-ins for mobile devices does it "kill" FourSquare? My answer would be "no." Facebook has a massive mobile user base, true, but FourSquare has a loyal following. Just as various Google products were launched in many instances with the moniker "X-Killer," only in a few cases has this actually turned out to be true. Navigation is one of them.
However, Google Checkout didn't kill PayPal. Google Base (now closed) didn't kill Craigslist. Knol didn't kill Wikipedia. Lively didn't kill Second Life (yes, it's still around). Okut didn't kill . . . well, it hasn't done very well outside a few isolated markets. And Facebook hasn't killed Twitter, despite becoming much more Twitter-like over the past six months.
I had predicted that Facebook would buy FourSquare, but instead the social media site appears to be trying to adopt some of its functionality. FourSquare founder Dennis Crowley is a smart guy and understands that he has to keep ahead of his competitors with new content and features.
Quoting Crowley on his reaction to the report, SAI reports:
For his part, Foursquare cofounder Dennis Crowley told us he fully expects Facebook and others to launch "check-in" functionality, making it "commodity by the end of the year."
Dennis says Foursquare's survival depends on providing "the most incentive for a user to check-in." Right now, Foursquare awards frequent users badges and calls the users who check-in at certain venues the most "mayor."
"I think we're doing this better than anyone else and I think we'll continue to do so. We have so much stuff on the whiteboard that we haven't even touched yet... we're really just getting started."
FourSquare's movement further into the mainstream is what could be affected by Facebook, if the latter copies FourSquare's features. However simply adding mobile check-ins alone won't truly impact FourSquare. As I've said, check-ins predate FourSquare and it's not all that FourSquare offers to its users.