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Today, there were four key announcements related to location:

 

  • Twitter released geotagging of tweets a feature to users and as an API for developers
  • Facebook released ad targeting by location
  • FourSquare opened up 50 more cities (competing with GoWalla)
  • SimpleGeo launched a Platform-as-a-Service to build location aware apps (competing with TownMe)

Location is the next layer for the web

First there was content. Then there was social. Now there is location

In the same way that social has penetrated the core uses of the web, so will location. Facebook Connect is ubiquitous and is starting to influence e-commerce (Facebook marketplace powered by Oodle), question and answer (Aardvark), news (CNN), and many others.

Location will forge the same path as social into ubiquitous use. E-commerce: find me a deal on a gray sweater close by; question and answer: restaurant recommendation; news: hyper local news, and so on.

9% of US phones sport GPS and netbooks are shipping with location built-in, GPS units will become ubiquitous like web cams in laptops and cameras in mobile phones. As a result, users’ locations will become constantly available and be associated with all kinds of data. For example, a bar code scanning Android App, ShopSavvy, is now selling “UPC/GPS intent pairs” to advertisers.

Control the data to maximize revenue

The owner of users’ location data is king in this new world because the data is uniquely valuable and broadly applicable. Analyzing customer behaviors can influence decisions from where to place ads, where to place new stores, and co-visitation of stores. In short, data provides insights into where customers are and how to reach them. And this is true for almost any line of business. 

Today’s announcements point to different approaches for garnering data. FourSquare and GoWalla build a game so users provide location in exchange for fun. Eventually, these services enable local businesses to measure how mobile and online advertising impact their businesses by closing the loop with a check-in.

Facebook has an audience of 300M people with unique insight into users’ behaviors, both mobile (with location) and web, and friend patterns. My wife, a Googler, saw an ad on Facebook tonight : “Commute to Google? Save on insurance with these special Googler deals”. How much more targeted of an ad can you make?  That combination of work information and location information is amazingly powerful for advertisers. 

Twitter also has an enormous audience of 50M users and is the best tool for influencers to promote content. With Tweets geotagged and a scalable API,  Twitter could power many applications like FourSquare capturing short (read: 140 characters) metadata associated with location, competing with platforms like SimpleGeo and TownMe, who are looking to provide the same service.

In short, there’s a gold rush for the data. And the winners will likely be billion dollar companies because of this treasure trove of data.
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