The Official Google Mobile blog reports a new service: Google Latitude, which overlays Google maps with information about where your friends are, in real time. It’s opt-in, and there are privacy features already in place for it, so don’t get all crazy on us now. But I think this is a point in time to consider. I’ll explain in a moment.
First off, Google Latitude has the ability to spread ridiculously fast. In its mobile form (and that’s really the only version users should care about), they’ve got versions working for Android(naturally), Blackberry, Symbian S60, and Windows Mobile. Missing (and what the hell are you thinking?) is the iPhone version. It’s the right tool for our phones, and it’s a great tool for those of us who don’t have only two locations in our daily map: work, home.
And yes, for some of you (I’m looking at you, BrightKite), this announcement is a bit scary. If I’m a mobile map-like product, I’ve just been served notice.
But, where this gets interesting is that the applications between Google Local, with its voting features and its review features, and now with Google Latitude with the ability to annotate the world ( I’m a bit obsessed with the concept), we’re on to something. Do you see it?
Sidebar: If you haven’t read William Gibson’s Spook Country, now’s the time to pick that up. Laced into the plot are ideas for where this could be really interesting.
Data overlaying real space has been considered in many ways before. How could we put digital markers up? How will notation by friends (because really, throwing spammy ads all over a map just means I won’t read your map) change how I interact with businesses? When I get to Denver, will I check Latitude to see which of my friends has marked the map to where the best sushi is, the most fun of the three hotels over by the school?
That mix of local, of maps, and of annotation is powerful. Storytellers, marketers, journalists, and others who think about information as more than something to read while eating cereal, I’ve put you on alert.
Want to see if it works for your phone yet? Go to http://google.com/latitude from your mobile device and see what happens. (This works on your desktop browser as well).
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