End of last year, Foursquare started out with its location-based game iPhone app, whereby people check into venues around town and are being rewarded with points and badges. The application scans your current location and shows you a list of venues to choose from. If the venue you are at isn’t listed, you simply add it and tag with relevant keywords, thereby creating user-generated content which earns you 5 points. You can also add tips, for example how much you liked the pasta dish at that Italian restaurant you’ve just had dinner at with your friend. Or you save some To-Dos for later when you come back. Once you are a regular at a venue, you have the chance to become their Mayor. Checking in, you decide whether you want to notify your Foursquare friends or publish the check-in on Facebook or Twitter.
It’s all good fun and quite popular in the U.S. Some tourist boards have already teamed up with Foursquare in order to promote their destination (see our post about: Chicago Tourist Board and Foursquare).
Recently, several new game apps have been launched using a similar concept, e.g.: Gowalla, Yelp, Loopt, Whrrl, iWassuu
There are two questions I’d like to ask:
1. What are the privacy issues with apps like this, when essentially using them your entire life becomes public? Will this concept survive once it has been abused, for example by an ex-boyfriend or boss following your every move…
2. How could these games develop commercially, especially in terms of tourism and travel?
Question 1 I would like to open up to the public and would love to hear your comments, though my feeling is that we’ve already pushed out the boat a fair bit in terms of privacy with web 2.0 and boundaries are shifting.
Question 2 I’d answer with Advertising!
Like Facebook and other social media sites and even going back to the old days of ‘simple’ search, location-based applications collect valuable data about peoples’ habits and social interaction. This in turn will enable advertisers to target their promotions more precisely than ever. That’s what we call behavioral targeting in online marketing.
Imagine a business traveler visiting London and looking for a hotel for the night. We know from his extensive use of location-based games what kind of places he likes, say up-market, design hotels and posh gourmet restaurants. No need for a budget hotel to spend advertising dollars on him…
So, while it’s all a game right now, there is huge potential for businesses to use such applications commercially in future.
That is, if they survive… What do you think?