Decloaking dinosaurs

I met someone this week that thinks they were burgled because they tweeted that they were away from home (i.e. London, when their location says Brighton). Such scare stories are only more likely as location-based services begin to make traction.

Foursquare, Gowalla, Brightkite, Loopt, Yelp etc are still in their relevant infancies but with Facebook launching Places and smartphone take-up sky rocketing, these services/games are going to thrive. They’re not there yet simply because the reason for broadcasting isn’t compelling enough.

Somewhat negatively for a social media darling, Chris Brogan wrote recently, “I’m just not always keen on decloaking for social-only reasons.” I wouldn’t if I was him either; with 146,000 Twitter followers he’s going to be mobbed and spammed big time.

Users are struggling to find a real value in location at the moment but with generation Y willing to publish everything about themselves, I can’t imagine decloaking and revealing location being a worry for them. It’s more likely the opposite as they ‘like’ and ‘check in’ at bars, cafes, clubs, shops and places all over world.

As usual, John Battelle voices the clearest business connect, “…location aware services are not yet a cultural habit, in particular ambient ones. But it won’t be long before we assume that our public presence is, in effect, a search, one for which we will expect a response from any number of potential respondents.

There are some clever early adopters though. Example: Daily Candy will point you to ‘current local happenings like designer sales, spa deals, and underground concerts,’ as you travel around New York, but we’ve not really seen anything yet.

So marketers will create places pages inside Facebook and scramble to offer you discounts to broadcast you’re in the cinema, coffee shop or wine bar. And, inevitably, the privacy debate will become mainstream news (read ACLU’s concerns).

Location is marketing’s unconquered frontier (and privacy the debate to come). But not for much longer.

Photo credit: Kerryvaugan

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