17 September 2008

Where in the World Is...

We're all (Internet) stalkers, admit it. Why else would Facebook suck up so much of everyone's time? Well, let's kick it all up a notch and start tracking our friends' movements. I've been trying out this new iPhone app, Loopt, which basically allows you to update your physical location and when your friends do the same, you'll be able to see where everyone is on the map. You can add a little text update, a picture, or just simply ping/pong your friends to request an update.

Loopt is a "Location Based Service (LBS)" that basically combines social networking, microblogging, and GPS capability. Whrrl is another competitor but I just found out about it today and don't have the heart to ditch Loopt yet. Plus, the few friends I have on Loopt are already addicted to it and one doesn't seem all that much better than the other. Actually, there's rumors that Facebook will be adding their own similarly styled service and that might just kill Loopt, Whrrrl, or anything else. For now though, I'm on Loopt, which only works for iPhones and Blackberrys currently.

So if you get an invite to Loopt from me, don't assume it's spam. I just want to know where you're at twenty four seven.

Now, why in the world would you want to reveal your location to anyone, even your friends? Well, for one, what are you hiding? Afraid of someone noticing that you're not really at home when you said you were? Well, Loopt doesn't automatically geo-locate you; you have to turn it on and make an entry for it to display your current location. I could care less if people knew where I was but I can see how some folks might be sensitive to that.

The positives of having social mapping far outweigh the negatives I think. Imagine walking around and being able to see where your friends are on a Friday night. No need to call and ask "Where are you?" Just Loopt them and go meet up. Or run into a friend on purpose. No more "I can't believe you were next door, I was just around the corner!" Of course, you could also use Loopt to avoid people. "Oh man, he's there? I'm so not going."

Some people will always be uncomfortable with the idea of having omniscient (and not necessarily benevolent) eyes watching them so they'll never join but soon you won't have a choice. Everyone will be geo-tagged within the next ten years right? Why not just do it voluntarily!

I wish I lived in an urban city where I could see friends updating from all over the place. Actually, maybe I just wish I had friends.

The few problems I've had with Loopt so far is that it's not truly location based. I'd like an option where it literally broadcasts your location at all times. Plus, it'll be cool if you could see past locations drawn out like a line, just for kicks. You could see your friend's path while walking around downtown for example. Also, for now, Loopt is updating and sending information via text messages, which could get annoying and expensive very quickly. The reason Ameer had previously refused to use Loopt was because the young founder wore two polo shirts during his presentation. The Internet flamed him for being an uber-douche. Which is probably true but hey, I won't let a few too many collars get in the way of using a fun application.

Loopt me!