Social Networks

Google Mobile Adds Layers to Maps

The Google Mobile Blog announced that Symbian and Windows Mobile users can now add multiple search results and content layers -- including Latitude -- to Maps for Mobile:

To get started with Layers on Google Maps for mobile 3.2, hit the "2" key or select Layers in the menu. You can toggle various layers on and off, and you can mash up combinations like friends' Latitude locations against a planned route. Google Maps for mobile Layers is available now on Symbian S60 and Windows Mobile phones, and will come soon to other platforms. The upgrade is available for all countries where Google Maps for mobile is currently available.

This is a mirror of what's going on with the PC side, where Maps enables layers of search results to be shown simultaneously. Right now on Android you can layer Latitude on top of a map with search results.

Google is also making Maps for Mobile more "browse-friendly": 

Under Search, you'll find a link to browse popular categories, which helped us avoid the pain of typing on a mobile whilst out on the road (only available in the US and China for the time being).

On Android voice search on Maps works well to minimize typing. It's not clear how voice search will interact with layers in the Android or iPhone versions of Maps.

Aloqa: App Store within an App Store Goes Live

Don't call it an LBS service," Sanjeev Agrawal, CEO of Aloqa, told me when I spoke to him a couple weeks ago. He prefers the term "context-aware." Aloqa officially launched yesterday on the Android platform and announced $1.5 million in funding. Other smartphone platforms are coming soon. Aloqa currently works in the US and Germany.

Agrawal, preparing for his presentation at yesterday's Mobile Beat conference, was trying to come up with a quick way to describe Aloqa. The metaphor he often uses is cable TV channels or an "app store within an app store." I didn't stay to see his presentation, but it must have been successful because the company won the "people's choice" award at the show. 

Aloqa has a menu of content modules or channels (image at right), which can be "owned" or developed third parties. (There will be an SDK soon.) This is almost identical to what MapQuest has done on the PC with its Local site.

Those modules range from brand finders to news, events, restaurants and social networking. All are location enabled. In explaining what differentiates Aloqa, which had been around for roughly two years before Agrawal joined as CEO, he points out that location on Aloqa can be calibrated to the specific app and may tap into different location technologies as appropriate to the use case. "If it's Starbucks you only need accuracy within 500 meters, but if it's your kid you need GPS level accuracy," he says.

I asked Agrawal about potential similarities between Aloqa and other "discovery" oriented local mobile sites or apps such as Where, Earthcomber, AroundMe or Places Directory among others (Yahoo! and AOL also had third party platform/apps strategies at one point). He explains that Aloqa can be entirely personalized and, more significantly, has push/notifications that rely on "dynamic data." And like the Android apps marketplace itself third parties are welcome to build their own channels; however Agrawal said there would be some oversight to prevent spam or other undesirable content. (This is again like MapQuest Local on the PC.) 

Because the data in the various modules are coming from dynamic feeds he says that they're potentially changing all the time. News for example from Topix or events from Eventful will change continuously and notification of those changes are pushed to the user in the form of icons on the channel buttons. 

The details page of any event, location or listing (depending on the content module) allows users to visit the site for more complete information, show the location on a map, call the business or share the listing. 

Agrawal also points to Aloqa's Facebook channel, which allows users to set up what amounts to a temporary social network through Facebook. All those participating must have Aloqa on their phones, but if they do they're notified when their Aloqa-Facebook contacts are nearby. All of this is permission based. 

Aloqa's channels can be added or subtracted with relative ease. The app is not without some bugs and awkward dimensions. But those will be found and addressed I'm sure. Agrawal envisions multiple revenue streams that could also include white labeling the service and premium channels for consumers. 

A number of companies have developed or are developing location-aware apps that seek to be comprehensive or nearly so. Geodelic is one and MobilePeople is another, among some of those I mentioned. Apps stores are mostly vertical marketplaces at the moment. Aloqa and its competitors seek to go in the opposite direction and provide a "one-stop shop," literally and figuatively.

Conceptually I like the strategy because people don't want to have to constantly go in and out of apps, as a general rule, in getting to different categories of information. In terms of challenges, getting good data isn't always easy and developing the right UI/UX is another challenge.

Aardvark Taps Twitter as Another Entry Point

When it came out of beta, last week, I wrote about "answer community" Aardvark. The service is building a network -- or leveraging existing networks like Facebook -- to enable people to respond to questions that search engines can't answer as easily or well. In my prior post above I discuss my experience when I asked Aardvark (Vark) for recommendations on "generally available pinot noir wines for under $15."  

I've also written up a piece this morning at Search Engine Land on how Aardvark is starting to use Twitter as another "entry point" or onramp for the service: 

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You can now sign in to Aardvark using Twitter (as you can with Facebook Connect) and ask questions through Twitter, privately via direct message or publicly. The latter scenario will send the question to Aardvark as well as one's own Twitter "followers," broadening the pool of potential responses. 

At one point I thought a Vark-like service or similar capability would emerge at Twitter. But I no longer think that Twitter will put any effort into formally developing it. 

The LMS/Opus crew met with Aardvark yesterday and talked through a range of issues, including:

  • Mobile access
  • Voice input
  • Monetization 

Voice isn't "quite there yet" so it's going to be awhile before people can speak their queries. Mobile input is already available via IM and email. But the Vark team recognizes mobile as a primary use case for the service. In terms of monetization, CEO Max Ventilla spoke about affiliate links and hand offs being mapped to the content of user queries and answers. This makes sense and would be potentially unintrusive. The challenge for Vark is volume and scale to generate any meaningful revenues from such deals. The team will probably need to look at other monetization scenarios later as well.

A great many of the queries that pass through Vark are going to be about places and things to do, making it a kind of local-social search tool. Indeed, travel and entertainment will be primary use cases for the service. 

There are now a number of companies that in one way or another are trying to provide human answers/responses to queries. These include ChaCha, kgb's Text411, Yahoo! Answers and a number of online Q&A communities. The site that Aardvark is most like is the original incarnation of Mosio, which is changing and taking on a more enterprise flavor. 

ChaCha is trying to find the right balance of humans and automation to control costs as ads ramp up. Text411 is a consumer pays service, which might limit demand. Yahoo! Answers, which is now showing near real-time response, offers inconsistent quality and generally anonymous answers (although you can invite friends to be a part of your network). 

For its part Vark may have challenges generating revenue, although the affiliate model conceptually makes lots of sense. However the Vark consumer experience is very strong. Community members are not getting paid to respond and have lots of control over how often they receive questions and what types of questions they get. So there are controls to avoid Q&A fatigue. 

Another interesting thing here is the notion of decentralization implicit in the model. Vark doesn't need a massive audience of users (me --> the world) to provide a good user experience. The site needs people to bring their immediate networks (via email or Facebook).

If my friends can't answer my queries, their friends probably can. Over time a landscape of smaller communities connected through Vark will create the kind of scale the site is hoping to achieve. But I only get and respond to questions that flow within my extended network. Consequently the experience could work quite well at 10K users, a 100K or, eventually, 20 million (or more) users.  I'm not asking the world for a response, just my network and their friends. 

There were three of us at the meeting yesterday with Aardvark. Everyone uniformly was impressed with the consumer experience and the thinking behind it. However there was some skepticism about Vark's ability to monetize effectively. Of the three of us I was probably the one who'd consumed the most kool-aid. But I'm genuinely impressed with Aardvark. 

Improved Facebook iPhone App Coming Soon

Facebook is getting ready to launch an improved and expanded app for the iPhone. According to a post yesterday, the new app has a range of enhanced features that make it more mobile self-sufficient:

1. The "new" News Feed
2. Like
3. Events (including the ability to RSVP)
4. Notes
5. Pages
6. Create new photo albums
7. Upload photos to any album
8. Zoom into photos
9. Easier photo tagging
10. Profile Pictures albums
11. A new home screen for easy access to all your stuff, search, and notifications
12. Add your favorite profiles and pages to the home screen
13. Better Notifications (they link to the comments so you can reply)
14. Quickly call or text people right from the Friends page
15. Messages you are typing will be restored if you quit or are interrupted by a phone call

Push notifications -- now possible in the iPhone 3.0 software -- won't be part of this release.

New FB iPhone app 3.0

Mobile access to social networks is growing according to our data and third party reports. Earlier this year Facebook reported that it had 25 million mobile users around the world, with 4 million daily mobile users. That was in February and those numbers are probably larger now.

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Update: Video uploads are part of the new app as well (via TechCrunch). The new iPhone (with video) was reportedly driving a 400% daily increase at YouTube. Facebook can probably expect a comparable onslaught when it releases (and Apple approves) the new app. 

Dell Making Netbook More Like a Smartphone

Earlier today I wrote about a rumored Dell "mobile Internet device" that might use the Android OS. But this afternoon Dell announced that it would be integrating the "Dell Wireless 700 location solution" into its Mini 10 netbook. The Wireless 700 location solution consists of GPS + triangulation: 

[A]n internal GPS card with built-in Wi-Fi locationing.  These two technologies work in tandem, which means the technology works both indoors and out. In other words, it can calculate your position using Wi-Fi access points or using GPS satellites. The Dell Wireless 700 is powered by Broadcom's A-GPS and Skyhook Wireless' Wi-Fi position solutions.

So what is Dell going to do with this user-location information? Two things to start, turn by turn navigation and a local content portal:

On the software side, the Dell Wireless 700 location system features CoPilot navigation software to provide turn by turn directions. I offers things like 2D and 3D map views, lets you save up to 50 addresses for one trip, offers trip optimization to provide the most efficient route, can provide instant detour information when you encounter expected delays and provides continuously updated information about the trip.

Another piece of the location-based services that we're bringing to market is a location aware portal. For it, we've partnered with Skyhook Wireless and Loki.  Loki is a browser plugin that comes preconfigured for Internet Explorer and Firefox. It works with Loki-supported sites to improve local search functionality by providing you details from nearby restaurants store locations and your friends' location information from supported social media sites like Flickr, Loopt and  BrightKite.

The location aware portal looks like this:

Picture 7

It includes content from a range of partners and sources including Topix, Zvents, Twitter, Yelp, Weatherbug and a number of others. What's interesting here is how Dell is essentially approaching this netbook as if it were a smartphone and equipping it with location-awareness and widgets or apps of a sort with this location dashboard.

However this research from NPD on netbooks found that roughly 60% of the consumers surveyed never took their devices out of the house. But that still means that 40% did.

I think these tools and services reflect some progressive thinking at Dell about the features and use cases of the netbook.

Smartphones to Displace PC for Younger Women?

Solutions Research Group Consultants (SRG) has put out research that reveals how popular smartphones and the mobile Internet are becoming with women, younger women in particular. The results of the North American study are based on "over 2,000 in-depth interviews and explores how women navigate in the age of broadband, mobile and social media."

Here are the findings:

  • 80% of women [are] using a wireless device and 17% now using a smartphone. Among those 12-24, smartphone ownership is now 23%.
  • Among women with [mobile Internet] access, teens and young women under 25 spend twice as much time (2.8 hours per day) on average with their cell phones compared to women 40+ (1.2 hours)
  • Younger women are also much more likely to use the full functionality of their wireless devices than older women . . . 12-24s are twice as likely to have sent a text message in the past month compared to women 40+ (85% vs. 43%). Over half (53%) of women under 25 used the calendar on their wireless device to book an appointment or review their schedule vs. 22% of women 40+.
  • 74% of 12-24 year-olds indicate taking a photo with their cell phone in the past month. Young women are twice as likely to say they used the Internet browser on their cell phone in the past month [and] . . . are about 4X as likely to access social media such as a Facebook profile or MySpace page on their mobile phone – in the last month, 22% of 12-24s used their mobile device to access Facebook, MySpace or Twitter. 
  • Seven-in-ten young women are watching TV with a wireless device, as they text, browse or play games. Half (49%) of young women say do this frequently, in contrast, just 24% of women 40+.

SRG young women

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The smartphone numbers are slightly ahead of the general market, but indicate that we could potentially hit 25% general market smartphone penetration by 2011. Also these data lend further credibility to the "mobile first" scenarios we've been talking about for some time, where the mobile device becomes the preferred Internet access method. 

Aardvark Launches: Social Search, Social DA, Answer Community

Ever since we wrote about Mosio in October of 2007 we've been watching and waiting for someone to really break-through with a human-powered mobile search utility that can archive scale. ChaCha and kgb to varying degrees have done that and represent a hybrid between traditional directory assistance and Web search; one can ask any question of a quasi-professional human in the background, while some query responses are automated via a database. 

Yahoo! Answers uses community to answer questions but answers don't show up in real time; although Yahoo!'s Marc Davis has told me that increasingly there are responses in near-real time from the community. 

Twitter and Facebook have the potential to evolve or develop angles that enable them to be used as Q&A services -- what I've called in the past "social DA." But those use cases are not fully developed on either site. 

Now Aardvark, which we can call an "answer community," is trying to bring all these things together. I wrote about "Vark" on Screenwerk in March:

Vark is a private beta Q&A service that leverages IM and tries to organize people into networks and get them to self classify around areas of expertise . . . It’s not that far removed from Mosio (w/o the mobile dimension however) or ChaCha or the new text411. Yahoo Answers is also a cousin of this service . . .

This weekend the NY Times wrote a piece on Vark to coincide with the service coming out of private beta:

It begins with the social network that you’ve established elsewhere. Presently, it requires Facebook; other networks will be added, it says.

Once signed up, you submit a question to Aardvark via an instant message or e-mail, and its software looks among your Facebook friends, and friends-of-your-friends, for volunteers to answer it. You can exclude any friends from the potential contact list.

Those friends-of-friends may turn out to be a great fountain of hitherto untapped information. For example, none of your 200 Facebook “friends” may have recently stayed in Napa and be able to recommend a bed-and-breakfast. But if each of their friends can be tapped, the pool of prospective wine-country authorities jumps from 200 into the tens of thousands.

You wouldn’t want to bother those thousands, however, with your question about Napa B.& B.’s. Aardvark has devised ways to drastically narrow the search, asking only those who are most likely to have an answer, and asking only a few of them at a time, protecting your network of volunteers from being asked too often.

The Aardvark system assumes that no single answer will serve for everyone who poses the same question. It uses information about interests supplied by registrants and from outside social networking profiles to match interests, demographic characteristics, common affiliations and other factors. It also checks whether prospective advice-givers are presently signed into one of three instant-messaging services. (The company says an iPhone version is in the works, too.)

Thus the availability of "friends of friends" and the specialized routing of questions are the "secret sauce" here. This morning I asked about Pinot Noir recommendations:

 Picture 10Picture 9

Picture 8

Within about two minutes I got this answer in email:

 Picture 14

And it turns out to be a very good wine:

 Picture 15

This is a very specific question and answer. However in this particular case Google has arguably even better results for this question. But in many specialized contexts, or where trusted opinions are needed, there won't be equally good results (or any perhaps) at the top of Google SERPs.

Vark is trying to create scale without the costs associated with a ChaCha or kgb model. But it's also trying to provide the "real time" response of those services lacking in a more conventional online Q&A service such as Yahoo! Answers. Getting it right -- not an easy thing -- could drive huge mobile query volumes. ChaCha has seen dramatic growth since becoming a mobile service, with many people doing in excess of 40 or more queries a month. 

iPhone 3GS Driving 400% Increase in Video Uploads to YouTube

A few weeks ago I speculated on my Screenwerk blog about whether the new iPhone would create and explosion of (local) video:

Let’s assume that Apple sells a lot of the new iPhone 3Gs units. They’ve now got video. What this could mean as a practical matter is lots (and lots) more video shot “on location” and uploaded to blogs, Facebook, YouTube and other sites that can accommodate it.

So they sold over a million units and now the YouTube blog is reporting a massive increase in video uploads driven by the iPhone 3GS: "Just since last Friday, when the iPhone 3GS came out, uploads increased by 400% a day."

Here's a potential opportunity for Google to start a premium consumer service if storage/hosting and related costs become a problem in the aggregate. But it also means that we're just going to see lots more video everywhere online -- because people are shooting more video and able to quickly and easily upload it with a single touch. 

Zong Turns the Mobile Phone into a Credit Card

I spoke to Zong yesterday and was impressed by the simplicity of the user experience. Zong is a "mobile payments" system and part of a company (Echovox) that has been around for almost a decade. The company has relationships with most of the mobile carriers in North America, Western Europe and elsewhere around the globe.

Mobile payments in this context is a bit misleading; the payments system/infrastructure uses the mobile phone and carrier billing (up to a per transaction total of $9.99). But CEO David Marcus says that 95% of revenues are coming from online-driven payments (games, virtual goods, etc.) from social networks. Many of the apps on Facebook for example use Zong. (The site will be introducing its own payments system soon.)

Here's a demo of the Zong payment user experience.

When users intend to buy something on a site or application that uses Zong, they enter their phone numbers (see below). A text is sent to their mobile phones with a pin code that they then enter online, validating the transaction in a few seconds. The user pays through his or her carrier bill, eliminating the need for any credit card input.

 Picture 25

Picture 26

I asked about competitors and we discussed a number of payment companies in mobile (Obopay, Bango, others). Marcus says the payment processor he most often encounters in dealing with companies is PayPal. He says he doesn't consider the eBay subsidiary to be a competitor but rather another payment method that is often offered side by side with Zong -- akin to businesses that take both Visa and Mastercard. 

Marcus added however that while fraud can be very high on PayPal he contends that Zong is virtually fraud proof, which is a selling point with publishers and site owners. 

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Related: CNET does a general overview of the mobile payments segment. And here's another payments round up, focused mostly on startup Boku, from the NY Times. 

On BlackBerry Poynt Dominates Local Search

The story of Multiplied Media's Poynt is the story of an amazing comeback. The company was having quite a rough time of it a year ago (very rough), despite some big deals in the pipeline.

Then the company won the grand prize in the BlackBerry app developer challenge. (One of the principals of the BlackBerry Partners Fund was singing its praises to me at the EconSM conference a couple weeks ago.) Then the BlackBerry App World store launched and the app has seen great success reportedly

It has also won other prizes and recognition. And now Poynt has launched in Germany with a big partnership there (Deutsche Telekom and its associated directory publishers [Muller Medien]):

Multiplied Media Corporation  . . . today announces the launch of its award-winning Poynt local search application for BlackBerry(R) smartphones in Germany. Multiplied has been working with SEARCHTEQ GmbH (formerly t-info), a joint venture between Deutsche Telekom Medien GmbH (DeTeMedien) and directory publishers in Germany, to develop its Poynt application for the German market.

Through SEARCHTEQ, Poynt utilizes data from suchen.de to provide business listing results while movie results are provided by kino.de . . .

I won't say that the company's future is assured but it's come back from a dire position to be a leading local search app on the leading smartphone platform. 

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Related: Multiplied seeking to acquire mobile messaging/email provider UnoMobi in all-stock deal. 

Sprint Launches Customizable Screen Saver

Based on Sprint's "Now Network" promotion, the company has launched a customizable screen saver that allows to access multiple services and types of content:

While screensavers are nothing new, Sprint has overhauled the familiar application in a fresh and exciting way to encapsulate the depth, breadth and power of the Sprint Now Network. The NOW customizable screensaver, which launched today, lets you see the present moment on your screen by drawing in information from your Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr data. In addition, it enables you to tailor other real time elements, such as local traffic and bus schedules, the weather, and even how many Google results match your name!

Customization/personalization is one of the ways that carriers can remain relevant to end users as more subscribers opt for mobile devices that offer full browsers. The "carrier deck" becomes less and less relevant or entirely absent when users are on the iPhone or Android for example. There was a deck of sorts on WinMo 6.1. But people will increasingly just go to apps/widgets or directly to the Internet.

On the back end, with user location and other user data, carriers can potentially get a piece of ad revenues by providing some of that targeting data to third party publishers and ad networks (provided the FTC doesn't bar it). However as consumers migrate to more Internet-cable phones carriers will need to offer positive reasons to consumers to interact with their content. AT&T and Verizon have accordingly said they'll be creating apps stores. 

But I imagine a situation -- a more "robust" version of what Sprint is talking about -- where users can customize a start page with third party content. Some portion of that page could be reserved for carrier branding and messaging or carrier-sold ads. This is analogous to MyYahoo today. 

But for these more compelling tools and services to mobile subscribers, the "dumb-pipe" scenario looms larger and larger for operators. 

Glympse Debuts Compelling New Location Sharing App

Some people may be tempted to lump the new Glympse into the category of "mobile social networks" such as Loopt. And some might see it in the camp of carrier-based mobile family tracking tools, which require a subscription. It has elements of both but sits between those two poles; it's also free (goodbye family locators). 

Glympse is an online and mobile application that allows users to share their location with others for limited durations (minutes or hours), thus eliminating the privacy concern associated with many location-aware social apps. It launches today on the G1 but other smartphone versions are coming very soon. 

Mobile users send a link (a "glympse") to another person or multiple people (whether online or on mobile devices). The person on the receiving end doesn't need to register or download software. Whether online or on an Internet-enabled phone that person will see a map with an icon representing the sender. That icon moves on the map to show the real-time location of that person as he or she, for example, heads toward the meeting:

  Glympse

As the screen above indicates it also estimates arrival time. I met with CEO Bryan Trussel recently. As we discussed Glympse I found the moving arrow on the map somewhat mesmerizing. There's a game-like element here, which is somewhat self-conscious and will aid adoption. Trussel and I spoke about a wide range of use cases and possibilities for monetization and data on the map.

We discussed for example the "concierge scenario" where people in cars call their friends to ask for directions or nearby business locations (e.g., "Where's the closest Chase ATM to me right now?"). With data layers on the map, Glympse would be perfect for that use case. (Also look for third parties to approach Glympse about incorporating the functionality into their apps and sites.)

The simplicity of the product and the fact that the glympse recipient doesn't have to register or download anything should accelerate adoption. And while Loopt has been criticized in some quarters as a dating site, Glympse has relatively obvious practical value in family, business and social contexts. And the Glympse sender retains control over how long the receiver can see him/her, as mentioned.

As I suggest, the fact that it's free should pretty much kill the "family locator" carrier subscription business unless it becomes part of an upsell bundle or premium package that includes other things. 

To send (as opposed to receive) a glympse one does need to download software to their mobile handset. The image below shows Glympse on Android.

Glympse on G1

UK Survey: Email and Social Networking Most Popular for Mobile Users

UK-based Webcredible surveyed 1,100 UK mobile users between February and April 2009 about their behavior. (Calls and SMS messages were excluded.) Here's what the results showed:

  • 52% "are now using the mobile Internet."
  • 55% of mobile Internet users were accessing email and using it for social networking (infer: mainly checking in at Facebook, etc. via mobile). Broken down: 39% of mobile Internet users were "mostly using email;" 16% "favour social networking." 
  • 13% of mobile Internet users accessed sports or news, 12% used maps & directions, while 4% used it for local or travel
  • 48% total respondents "said that they performed none of these tasks on their mobile phones."

In our recent survey just under 30% were accessing the mobile Internet. Here's the mobile content hierarchy (aided) according to those results:

  1. Email
  2. Send instant messages
  3. Weather information
  4. Games
  5. Search engines
  6. Maps and driving directions
  7. News and sports information
  8. Local business search
  9. Social networking
  10. Movies, show times
  11. Local restaurants and reviews
  12. Product information shopping
  13. Financial information
  14. Adult content
  15. Other types of content

 

Facebook (Finally) Comes to Windows Mobile

My Windows Mobile phone broke a few months ago and Sprint wouldn't honor my insurance (but that's another story), so I can't personally test Facebook for WinMo. (I'm now waiting for the Pre to come out in early June.)

The social networking site has come to the Windows Mobile platform after successful launches on BlackBerry and the iPhone. It's not on Android however. But given Microsoft's investment in Facebook and the ads and search partnership the two have, it's a bit curious it took this long. Here are some screenshots of the Windows Mobile interface, which is quite different than the look and feel of the iPhone app. 

WinMo6 for iPhone

 Windows Mobile

I would also expect that at some point the search partnership between the two companies will come into play in mobile. Right now on Facebook's mobile sites all you can do is search contacts.

Facebook has emerged as one of the top mobile sites in the US and Europe according to Opera. And Facebook reportedly sees more than 25 million monthly uniques accessing the site from mobile devices on a global basis. Despite these numbers, still only a small percentage of social network users access their networks on their handsets. Our latest US survey numbers indicate that there's been a doubling of mobile social networking (accessing social networks from mobile devices) since last year -- but from a small base. 

Here's more discussion of the app from Techmeme

EconSM Conference: Social Meets Mobile

Local Mobile Search is proud to be a media sponsor for "EconSM: Social Meets Mobile" being held May 14th in San Francisco.

The event delves into the business opportunities in the evolving mobile social space and features Greg Sterling, LMS Program Director, as moderator for the panel, "Geo-Location Services: Pinpointing Opportunities." In this session, which includes executives from Yahoo! Mobile, TeleNav, Lat49 and Sequoia Capital, the panel will discuss what differentiates geo-location services, who is using them, and what revenue opportunities are being achieved.

EconSM is a full-day event (10:00 am to 5:30 pm) at the Mission Bay Conference Center followed by an evening mixer. Register here with the code "LMS" and save 15% off the $450 registration fee.

In Battle Against Twitter, Facebook Promotes Mobile Services

Facebook is now the dominant social network -- online and in mobile. It's consistently one of the top mobile sites in third party reporting about mobile usage and traffic. Its iPhone app is a huge success. So what the social site worried about?

Clearly Facebook is worried about Twitter. And it's trying to build mobile usage while trying to pre-empt Twitter as the status update vehicle of choice for PC and mobile users. Even though Twitter is still much smaller, it's much leaner and less cluttered than Facebook. I believe that Facebook does have reason to be paranoid accordingly.

Nick O'Neill at the AllFacebook blog details some of the mobile offerings that Facebook has recently undertaken or begun to more heavily promote: 

FB mobile

Clearly Twitter couldn't replace Facebook under any scenario, in the same way that Facebook didn't and couldn't replace Google. However Twitter growth could potentially blunt or diminish a certain type of usage growth on Facebook, including into mobile. Hence Facebook's new push and nervousness about Twitter.

MySpace: 35% of Traffic Coming from Mobile Devices

Yesterday MySpace reported that 35% of its overall traffic -- that's right 35% -- is apparently coming from mobile devices. I almost can't believe it but it was repeated here and at OMMA Mobile this morning.

We've obviously seen increasing growth in the number of users accessing social networks from mobile devices. But these numbers are really dramatic. 

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Correction: I knew it was too good to be true. According to MySpace today (hearing this number circulated) the right data point is: 35% of mobile traffic comes from apps. Quite a bit different than the numbers above.

May Day! May Day! #LocalDay Coming to Twitter

Here's a test of the viral nature of Twitter as a local (and mobile) medium. Cyber-citizenry specialists e-democracy.org is suggesting that Twitter users designate May 1 as a day to tweet and connect with your neighbors in the real world. As instructed at www.e-democracy.org/Tweet_your_postal_code they suggest that you "tweet" your neighborhood's location (meaning Zip Code or Postal Code) so that others can use Twitter Search to find you and message you.

"To what end?", you may ask? The answer is as simple as "to say hello to your neighbors" or to organize a "flashBBQ".

Taking Twitter to the local level is not novel. An company called LocalTweeps has built a community of over 12,000 "followers" by inviting people to enter their Twitter name and zip codes into an electronic directory which the company maintains. So far its purpose is to keep Tweeters informed of others who are registered in their area.

We're witnessing the beginnings of efforts to take Twitter local. Tweet-ups are commonplace. Tweeting one's "neighborhood" (rather than Zip Code) would probably be more meaningful, as location information specialists like Maponics and Urban Mapping have discovered.

Nonetheless, it will be very interesting to see what activities are inspired when a time certain is set at the intersection of Twitter and location awareness.

Mobile Social Networking: Mostly about Hooking Up?

The Wall Street Journal has a curious article on mobile social networking with GPS. There's a focus on Loopt and Brightkite.

Like with most other social networks, communities form around certain services. Where Loopt seemed to be full of gay men, Brightkite seemed chock-a-block with savvy Web 2.0 marketers, pitching their brands, something personal users have grown wary of. I followed three couples on their meetup escapades, and here’s what happened:

The mildly mocking video associated with the article argues that location-aware social networking is mostly about dating. There are two forms of "mobile social networking": accessing social networks (e.g., Facebook) on a mobile device and finding out who's nearby right now (e.g., Loopt, Brightkite, Latitude).

In LMS/Opus consumer data just pulled (and not yet published) we found that just over 15% of social network user-respondents were accessing their network(s) from mobile devices. That's more than double the number we found at roughly the same time last year (6%). 

Dodgeball Take Two: Foursquare

Foursquare is a location-based social "game" from Dodgeball (now defunct) co-creator Dennis Crowley. The service launched at the recent SWSX conference to much fanfare and was reviewed initially on TechCrunch. I haven't yet used the service and admit to not being that interested in the game dimension of it.

Here's the way it's pitched on the site, which also prompts people to download the iPhone app: 

We're all about helping you find new ways to explore the city.

We'll help you meet up with your friends and let you earn points and unlock badges for discovering new places, doing new things and meeting new people. 

However, recognizing the popularity of mobile gaming, this could be quite successful with the under-30-what-should-I-do-with-my-time? crowd. CNet has an interesting Q&A interview with Crowley:

What cities are seeing the most activity?

Crowley: The top seven in order are San Francisco, New York City, Seattle, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Portland (Ore.), and Chicago. (I'm) frustrated that New York is always in 2nd place; Dodgeball was the same way.

Any plans to incorporate another service like Yelp or CitySearch to make the app a reference tool as well? I know when I'm out and considering going somewhere nearby (in the local favorites section) it would be nice to do that without leaving the application. The 'nearby tips' section is a boon for that, but what about taking it a step further?

Crowley: You know, a lot of the city and tips stuff we're doing is a response to Yelp and CitySearch being frustrating products to use. I don't read reviews, but I do want people to recommend things to me. More specifically I want my friends to recommend things to me. That's what we're trying to explore with the Top 12 lists: how do you create actionable items that can be tied to rewards and accomplishments? I think both Naveen and I have big ideas about how to make this work, we're just so busy fixing bugs and making things run smoother and faster that we haven't had a chance to focus on it yet.

Again, I haven't used it. But it seems like a very clever and creative take on LBS and mobile social networking.

I've argued that most mobile-only social networks are going to get steamrolled by Facebook and MySpace. Hence the merger of Limbo and Brightkite. But Foursquare's game-like approach could turn out to be a differentiator and make it a survivor.