How Location Services Can Survive In Spite of Facebook’s Entry

How Location Services Can Survive In Spite of Facebook’s Entry

Good friend Alex Wilhelm wrote about how Facebook’s location integration is the destination and termination of prognostication on the location sensation. (I apologize for this sentence). The argument is simple: Facebook interfaces with location services, and because it’s way bigger it’ll become how people update location on mobile. After all, your social capital on Facebook is way bigger than on Foursquare.

There is, however, a way for location products to stay alive, and that is to do things that Facebook Places does not. One example of this is Foursquare mayorships, which sometimes gives you real life rewards for checking in at a place more than anyone else. To some people it will be worth it to stick to Foursquare for this alone, though as Alex correctly points out these people will be small in number compared to the hordes already on Facebook.

But the real way for services to live is to provide a full experience not replicated by some big player who swoops in with a simple API. My favorite location company right now is SCVNGR, and largely for this reason. If you don’t know, SCVNGR is an app for iPhone and Android which gives you points for checking in at a place, but once you do so, you can earn more points by doing little activities, such as taking a picture of condiments stacked like a sculpture at the restaurant where you’re eating. There are some rewards on the service, and it also allows users and businesses to create new challenges, which keeps things fresh.

Obviously the idea of location plus a game won’t appeal to everyone, but as the number of users loading Foursquare and Gowalla apps falls, SCVNGR won’t lose anything. And that’s true of anything else which does more than merely check in. Surely there will be some people who decide not to use any other location apps because they get all they need from Facebook. However, while there is little reason right now to make a Foursquare account if you use Facebook, the same is not true of SCVNGR or anything else like it.

This is all very similar to how TweetDeck and Seesmic haven’t closed their doors in the face of Twitter’s launching its own client: they push new features to a userbase who wants more than just the basics. This is exactly how a dev who wants to get into or stay alive doing location stuff can succeed. The folks at Foursquare better get to brainstorming.

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