A Pew Research Center report finds location-based services are used by a small, but growing, number of Americans.
In its first report on the use of "geosocial" or location-based
services, the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life
project finds that four percent of online adults use a service such as
Foursquare or Gowalla that allows them to share their location with
friends and to find others who are nearby. On any given day, one
percent of Internet users are using these services, according to the
This is the second survey of the Pew Internet Project to ask about such
location-based services. The current number shows little change from
the first time this question was asked, in a May 2010 survey, when five
percent of adult Internet users said they had used such a site. The
survey found seven percent of the adults who go online with their
mobile phone use a location-based service, while eight percent of
online adults ages 18-29 use location-based services, significantly
more than online adults in any other age group.
Location-based services such as Foursquare and Gowalla use Internet-connected mobile devices' geolocation capabilities to let
users notify others of their locations by "checking in" to that
location. Location-based services often run on stand-alone software
applications (apps) on most major GPS-enabled smartphones or other
devices. Some of these geosocial services emphasize social networking
functions, and can notify friends on the service when the user is
The survey found men are significantly more likely than women to use
location-based services (six percent of online men versus three percent
of online women), and Hispanics (English- and Spanish-speaking) are
more likely than other ethnic groups to use these services (10 percent
of online Hispanics do, compared to three percent of whites and five
percent of blacks). The company noted there were no statistically
significant differences by household income or educational attainment.
"Wireless Internet users, unsurprisingly, are also more likely to use
location-based services, especially those who connect to the Internet
with their cell phone," wrote report authors Kathryn Zickuhr and Aaron
Smith. "Seven percent of all adults who go online with their mobile
phone say they use a location-based service, as well as five percent of
all wireless Internet users."
The authors pointed out location-based services are similar in some
respects to status updating services such as Twitter, in which users
communicate by short messages sent online or by text. Status updating
services have grown in popularity over the past few years, from six
percent of online adults saying they had used such a service in Aug.
2008 to 24 percent in Sept. 2010.
The reported found among online adults, 62 percent use a social
networking site such as Facebook, MySpace, or LinkedIn. Of these social
networking site users, six percent use a location-based service.
Twenty-four percent of online adults use Twitter or another service to
share updates about themselves or to see updates about others, while 10
percent of these status update site users use a location-based
service-more than twice the rate of the general online population.
The report is based on the results of a telephone survey by the Pew
Research Center's Internet & American Life Project conducted
between Aug. 9 and Sept. 13, 2010. The survey was administered to a
sample of 3,001 adults, age 18 and older, using a combination of
landline and cellular telephones. Interviews were conducted in English
or Spanish, according to the Pew Research Center.