The Evolution of Geotagging
Monday, January 9th, 2012
Geo-tagging has become ingrained in the DNA of the online — and particularly the mobile — browsing experience. A study from Forrester Research released in December, found that five percent of American adults had used a location-based online service of some kind in the last month.
From photography aficionados filling Flickr pages with latitude-and-longitude marked images, to chat sessions and blog posts linked to GPS data, the Web is increasingly anchored to the surface of the physical world on which we live.
As marketers and advertisers begin to understand the value in mining consumer location, and as consumers realize that geo-tagging data can be combined with impulses beyond dining and shopping, the future of the technology seems to be evolving even further.
The evolution of geo-tagging takes us in several directions. So, let’s look at a handful of recent markers in the ongoing evolution: geo-tagging at the dawn of the 2010s.
Foursquare, Facebook… Now and next
Early adopters, like Foursquare and the Facebook’s Places feature have brought geo-tagging to the masses. Media reports put Foursquare at 15 million users. And in fall 2010, a source at Facebook claimed some 30 million users had already given Places a whirl.
Experts see the two giants poised to expand the reach of advertisers even while they’re implementing functions to make that outreach more precise.
Geo-fencing: Eliminate the check-in
Advertisers may not need to rely on a check-in at all. With geo-fencing, as a mobile user enters a pre-defined geography, their mobile device tags them as incoming. Merchants’ servers keyed to the corresponding apps could be able to send coupons and prompts to new arrivals in the area. What’s more, this can work in other ways too. Want to know if your teen leaves the movie theatre when they’re supposed to be there for the full two hours? Geo-fencing apps can ping parents whenever a tagged mobile phone leaves an established location.
Check-In caution at the door?
The future of geo-tagging isn’t all roses, according to some critics.
While geo-tagging can help you have a better time downtown or save your life — emergency responders can use it to find a person in trouble, for example — privacy advocates warn that it can have unintended consequences.
The folks at ICanStalkYou.com offer this bit of safety advice: geo-tagging can give away your commuting patterns, your recent purchases, the location of your home, and what times you are away. So, visit their site to read up on how to disable what you don’t want the whole wide world to know, when it comes to the World Wide Web.
By James O’Brien
James O’Brien is a correspondent for The Boston Globe, The Consumer Chronicle, and Boston University’s Research magazine. James blogs via Contently.com.