Two articles recently came to my attention - one describing how location based services like FourSquare are used by some vanishingly small percentage of young people and basically no one else. This could be rather bad news for such services, as young men are a group that will try anything at least once regardless of its practicality or common sense.
The other article described how some mobile applications are secretly sending GPS coordinates to advertisers. This is both good and terrible news for developers of location based services. To me, it suggests two things:
- They'll be competing on trust, which is remarkably difficult to do if you get big. Even if you are internally careful about the sharing of information there are third parties that can make your whole idea look like a bad one.
- Quite a lot of money is being invested into location based services - startups like CloudMade and Facebook (Places) for example. Is it potentially because things like sending GPS coordinates and other personal information was what the funders were ultimately expecting in the future?
People will still use Facebook even if they find out it's been sending GPS coordinates and personal information to advertisers because everyone knows what they are getting into (or should). Everyone else has to worry about the incompatibility of competing on trust and potentially being funded on the notion that in the future you will be asked to betray your users.