Foursquare has not cornered the nascent location-based social service war, executives from Google, Facebook and Foursquare asserted at the TechCrunch Disrupt event in New York May 25. While the panelists provided politic answers, the truth behind the scenes is likely more cutthroat. These companies are scrambling to lure more users and advertising partners willing to leverage location. Google's Vic Gundotra promised more features from Latitude this year.
Foursquare has not cornered the nascent location-based
social service war, executives from Google, Facebook and Foursquare
asserted at the TechCrunch Disrupt event in New York May 25.
TechCrunch Editor Michael Arrington asked Vic Gundotra, vice
president of engineering for Google, Chris Cox, vice president of product
management for Facebook and Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley, whether social
check-in service Foursquare had won the location-based service battle.
"Are they the YouTube of location?" Arrington
added, a nod to the Google-owned property's unparalleled status in
Gundotra, whose company offers the Google Latitude
friend-finding application and the Google Buzz for mobile social app, said
there will be many players for location-based services.
"I think Foursquare has done some pretty amazing
work, some examples of the kind of exciting things you can do with check-ins,
but it's extremely early," Gundotra said. "I think you're going to
see lots of information in the next year from everybody and I think that's good
For example, Google last week launched its Latitude API
to allow developers to write apps that leverage Google's location database.
The company hopes programmers
write apps that let Latitude's 3 million-plus users track home appliances, scan highway
traffic and warn users of credit card fraud.
Gundotra promised there will be exciting enhancements to Latitude this year that "make it more popular."
Google in February launched
its Google Buzz for mobile application, which lets smartphone users post comments
that get tagged based on where they are
when they posted their Buzz. This is sort of like a check-in even if Google doesn't call it that, as Arrington pointed out.
To be sure, Buzz has faced privacy hiccups, but its
mobile app is the closest program Google has to competing with Foursquare, even
if it doesn't leverage check-ins. Over time, Google Latitude and Google Buzz
Arrington then put the question to Cox, who said location
is not a space where there will be one winner with a bunch of losers. "It's
a piece of context that's going to be a part of a lot of different
experiences," Cox added.
Facebook is reportedly
location-based status updates for its users later this month. Facebook
is said to be building an application with McDonald's that lets users check in
at one of the fast-food chain's restaurants and have a featured product appear
in the post.
Even Foursquare's Crowley, who sold an early version of
Foursquare in Dodgeball to the company and left after Google let it whither,
denied there is a clear-cut winner in the location-based services market.
"I think we're building great stuff," Crowley
said. "I don't think we're the winner. This is super early in the space.
Look at two years ago, there wasn't really anything interesting going on."
He added that by adding reviews and ratings and game mechanics to
post check-in page, his company made the space more interesting.
Foursquare gets more than 700,000 check-ins per day, with 35 percent of
its 1 million users using the app daily.
Foursquare has partnered with the likes of PepsiCo,
Starbucks, Bravo and MTV. Foursquare users who check in at Starbucks locations
will earn the "Barista badge" after five check-ins.
The panelists provided politic answers. The
truth behind the scenes is likely more cutthroat, with the companies scrambling
to lure more users and more advertising
partners willing to leverage location.
Moreover, Arrington neglected to press Gundotra on the bold statements
he made against Apple at Google I/O last week, which was curious considering the attention he drew.