Twitter promises to release a location API to let third-party programmers build out location-aware services to help users connect based on latitude and longitude. The company would join Google, Loopt, Brightkite and others in offering such Web services, which helps users find friends, restaurants and other businesses via applications on their Web-based mobile phones.
For several weeks in his company blog, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone has been
alluding to APIs Twitter programmers have been working on to improve the
service, but he has declined to peel back the curtain to give users a glimpse.
On Aug. 20, Stone quit teasing users, saying that Twitter will soon launch
an API that provides latitude and longitude
to any tweet, making Twitter the latest in a lengthening line of providers to
provide Web services based on user location.
Location-based services are swiftly becoming table stakes at a time when
users are leveraging an increasing number of services from their Web-based
smartphones. Google, Yahoo, Loopt
location-aware services to help users find friends, local restaurants or even
shopping deals. Google Latitude
for example, uses cell phone triangulation to help users find friends via their
People tend to be wary about such services because they don't like the idea
of a Web service tracking them. Stone said the location feature will be off by
default, meaning users must willfully activate it. Moreover, exact location
data won't be stored for an extended period of time. Stone promises rich
context for users who do opt-in
"With accurate, tweet-level location data you could switch from reading
the tweets of accounts you follow to reading tweets from anyone in your
neighborhood or city-whether you follow them or not," Stone said.
"It's easy to imagine how this might be interesting at an event like a
concert or even something more dramatic like an earthquake. There will likely
be many use cases we haven't even thought of yet which is part of what makes
this so exciting."
Twitter will also likely leverage the API
for business use, helping Twitter users find local restaurants to eat or retail
stores to shop. The company is in the process
of rolling out commercial accounts for businesses that want
to use Twitter as a marketing tool. Pairing location services with marketing
campaigns could be a nice bump for Twitter in the revenue department.
It will be awhile before end users will be able to access location via
Twitter, which will release the geolocation API
to platform developers before it adds the feature to Twitter.com.
This means the location feature will likely be available on mobile
applications from third-party programmers before Twitter adds it to Twitter.com
and its mobile Website.
Twitter developer Ryan Sarver is taking the lead on the geolocation API
and said in a tweet Aug. 20
: "For those of you asking, the Geo API
will be available to everyone at launch-no special access required. I look
forward to seeing the apps."
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