Thursday, February 03, 2011

Will Check-in Latitude embarrass Google Places?

Image representing Google Latitude as depicted...Image via CrunchBaseI travel a lot. I mean; a lot. As a result I find Foursquare to be relatively useful. Whether it's finding co-workers in the airport or simply letting friends see that I'm back from a business trip. As a result I was pretty interested at the recent upgrade to Google Latitude.

One of the neat (and slightly controversial) features is the ability to automatically check-in to venues you've white listed. The first place I white-listed for this feature is a small but rather nice pub half way between my bigmouth office and my flat. There's about 2 minutes walking between all three.

Latitude has checked in me to the pub several times since then despite the fact I've not been back. I picked up a cheeky dinner from the chippy next door to the pub last night. Latitude checked me into the pub again.

This isn't just a matter of proximity. If it was about proximity then I'm sure Latitude would be able to solve the problem itself. If I'd checked into the chippy then Latitude would (or could) learn that two places I visit often are small and very close by. I'm sure it's algorithms would learn to be either cautious or be accurate.

The problem is: I can't check in to the chippy - it's not in Google Places at all.

My home's not in Google Places. Unlike Foursquare's free-for-all place creation (which, yes, annoys some people) Google Places is far more structured and far harder to add venues too.

In short, Google Places could be described as being embarrassingly empty. As Latitude users ramp up their use of Google's impressive location based network I think they'll increasingly run into this problem. People will want to create more Google Places entries and they'll want to do this from their mobile and Latitude.

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