Google Latitude was one of the first location-based services to launch, but rather than “leading the race” as Google so often does, the service simply fell into the heap of runners-up to the popular 4Square. While 4Square was released after Latitude, the service quickly gained more press and popularity due to their lineup of features. Among those features, the most quickly appealing was 4Square’s invocation of the competitive spirit, largely through “check-ins” and the various rewards for doing so. Now, at long last, Google has decided to conform to the expectations of users, adding a check-in feature to their latitude application.
For those unfamiliar with the program, let’s get back to basics. If Latitude didn’t function with a check-in, how did it function? Somewhat controversially, Latitude worked by constantly broadcasting your current map location to those you allowed to see it. This was useful for a general “keeping tabs,” but short of turning the application off there really wasn’t a way to prevent the broadcast. Further, unless your fellow Latitude users knew their maps excruciatingly well, they probably didn’t know what your actual location was. As Ken Norton, the Project Manager of Google Latitude, stated, “[Latitude] has been good for seeing where you are, but not seeing where you ARE.”
And how will the new version be different? Rather than replacing their continuous broadcast with the check-in feature, Google is integrating both options, allowing users to check-in, have a continuous broadcast, and even allow Latitude to check in for them. This last feature is unique to Latitude, and allows users to participate in the application’s community without even pulling out their phone. When enabled, these automatic check-ins will detect your location and, if you stay in a registered location for long enough, will check you in automatically. Just be careful about, say, what sort of video stores you stop by with this app running.