Though I consider myself a netizen, I don’t live online (yet). I remain tethered to the real world, in real physical space. The lines are beginning to blur somewhat however, thanks to the increasing popularity of location-based online services.
A good example of this is Brightkite, a service I’ve written about a couple of times. In a nutshell, Brightkite gives you a way to say “here I am in the real world!” For example, when I get to work in the morning I “check in”. You can see this action in two ways: on my profile (or at any service that sucks in my profile, such as FriendFeed) and on the place itself. Each place inside Brightkite has a unique ID which means every real world location has a corresponding digital representation. That’s powerful!
The problem with Brightkite is that I need to manually check in. This is where Google Latitude comes in. The service was launched on Wednesday:
Latitude is a new feature for Google Maps on your mobile device. Once you’ve opted in to Latitude, you can see the approximate location of your friends and loved ones who have decided to share their location with you.
Ready to share your location? If you have a mobile smartphone, visit google.com/latitude on your phone’s web browser to download the latest version of Google Maps for mobile with Latitude.
It’s annoyingly basic, but it works. I’ve got it running on my BlackBerry so my location is updated in real-time everywhere I go. That means that Google Latitude knows I am in the office before I actually get on the computer to check in on Brightkite.
Obviously it would be better to have Latitude and Brightkite work together. The Brightkite team have said on Twitter that they’ll look into it as soon as Latitude has an API. I hope that happens relatively soon!
Why does all of this matter? Because location is vitally important. Today it might seem geeky to broadcast your location on the web, but in the not-to-distant future, I’m betting it’ll be completely ordinary. Your social graph and location-aware services will be the first beneficiaries of this information, but others will follow. It’s exciting to consider!
In the meantime, feel free to add me on these services. I’m email@example.com on Google Latitude, and mastermaq on Brightkite.