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 and Brightkite all provide 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 mobile phones.
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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