Wednesday, September 7, 2011

No clothes on GeoSocial location services?

Remember the little boy who cried out that the emperor had no clothes on? It seems the same may be true of location-based services like Foursquare, Gowalla and the now defunct Facebook Places.

With only 12% of adult smart phone users using a geolocation service like Foursquare or Gowalla, checking in is the least popular activity in the table published by Mashable yesterday. Why?
  • Privacy and safety concerns - folk are worried that in broadcasting their location they're advertising where they are not, and that the stuff they care about might be left unattended.
  • There just aren't enough users to make it useful: even a few million users worldwide translates to just a very few locally and, outside the geek circle, not many mainstream users. There just aren't enough users to make a consistent appreciable difference to the revenue of any one business.
  • Although many small businesses have been experimenting with deals and offers, it seems that users don't feel there are enough rewards to justify the cost of their time and privacy. My own experience is that checking in was fun for the first month or so, but my use rapidly fell from being active several times each day to a few times each week, then less - and now I've deleted Foursquare from my phone completely. Seems I'm not the only one with this pattern.
So, it's too early to claim that Foursquare is the next MySpace; or that Gowalla is dead already. But it's not quite the Internet gold rush that people were predicting a few months back.
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