Here Comes Google

Foursquare has an industry giant to worry about in the location based services realm and it isn’t Facebook.  Google is positioning Latitude to challenge Foursquare.  Last week at the Web 2.0 expo Googler Steve Lee said, “Latitude is not dead.”  Even with all the buzz surrounding location based services there has been little talk about Latitude. 

With Latitude’s 3 million active users (compared to Foursquare’s 1 million users) why haven’t we heard more about it?  There are a few reasons for this.  25% of Latitude’s users have zero friends, Latitude is not available on the iPhone and Latitude does not require its users to actively check-in.  Foursquare gets the majority of its traffic from its iPhone app and requires users to check-in.  Conversely, Latitude runs as a background app passively updating your location based on GPS, cell towers and hot spots.  This information is shared with your friends utilizing a Google Maps interface.  Of course, Google keeps a record of your travel history also.

Latitude has been growing at about 30% per month since the beginning of 2010; much of this growth could be traced to Android.  Right now, about 10% of Android owners utilize Latitude.  So, as Android continues to gain market share it is reasonable to assume Latitude will continue to grow. 

While not able to give out specifics, Lee alluded that Latitude will soon have a check-in component which will dramatically increase user engagement.  In the coming months, Google will also unveil an analytics system that can tell the user how much time is spent at home, at work, at the gym, etc. 

Foursquare has set consumers’ standards in geo-location services and after Yahoo unsuccessfully attempted to purchase it for a reported $100 million plus Foursquare has been thrust into the national consciousness.  Can Latitude overcome Foursquare’s initial advantages and lack of user activity?  Or will this initiative flame out much like Google’s Buzz?  Will one of the other players like MyTown emerge to usurp Foursquare?  No one knows for sure.  But, I, for one, will not be betting against Google.

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