Geolocation coming to Twitter and its external applications

The geocoding data will allow the site and its applications to provide new functionality

Twitter is jumping on the geolocation bandwagon, with plans to let users geocode their posts and make the information accessible both on the main Twitter site and through external applications.

Initially, Twitter will release to its external developers a preview of a new geolocation API (application programming interface), which will let developers attach geographic metadata to "tweets," the company announced Thursday in a blog post.

"Developers will have access to this new geolocation feature early which means it will most likely be available on your app of choice before it's available on Twitter's web site. Later, we'll add it to our mobile web site and Twitter.com as well," wrote Twitter cofounder Biz Stone.

Until now, location information has been available to external developers, but via a "rudimentary" API that uses the location information Twitter users add to their profile. "Since anything can be written in this field, it's interesting but not very dependable," Stone wrote.

When the new geolocation functionality is implemented, end-users in all cases will have to opt in to append latitude and longitude coordinates to their posts.

"If people do opt-in to sharing location on a tweet-by-tweet basis, compelling context will be added to each burst of information," Stone wrote. "For example, 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. It's easy to imagine how this might be interesting at an event like a concert or even something more dramatic like an earthquake."

The geolocation functionality will allow developers to deliver "more meaningful and localized experiences" to their applications' users, wrote Ryan Sarver, a member of the Twitter application platform support team, in a discussion forum for Twitter developers.

"We are also really excited about a unique facet of this release in that it will be API-only initially. This means that Twitter.com won't surface the functionality and we look forward to seeing the new and interesting experiences that will grow out of the ecosystem," Sarver wrote on Thursday.

Developers can expect to soon see a "Geolocation Best Practices" guide from Twitter that will address key geolocation API topics like security and privacy.

"The guide will create a framework from which we can address the challenges that come about when dealing with something as sensitive as someone's location while hopefully allowing everyone enough creative freedom to create their own experiences around it. It is important to note that the feature is going to be strictly opt-in. It will be disabled until a user chooses to switch it on," Sarver wrote.

There is no specific date set yet for the official release of the geolocation API.

Geolocation adds a valuable space dimension to Twitter, whose main attractiveness until now has been the real-time nature of its communications, said Gartner analyst Ray Valdes.

Even without geolocation functionality, Twitter is often used by people to broadcast where they are to their friends, such as when someone is headed to a bar and invites acquaintances nearby to join them, he said.

"This highlights a use case that has already been in play for some time, so it's a positive move on Twitter's part. It has a lot of potential," Valdes said.

Releasing the API first to developers gives them a big opportunity to capitalize on the possibilities of geolocation in Twitter, Valdes said.

"It will be up to developers to take advantage of this and use it in a responsible way that users can then learn about," he said.

It appears that Twitter's management has given geolocation issues such as privacy and security careful thought, as indicated by their plan to release a best-practices guide to developers, Valdes said.

"That doesn't mean there won't be any mistakes made. It's going to be a learning process, but the good news is that they are aware of this issue from the start," Valdes said. "As long as users have control, and the knobs and dials of the privacy settings are visible and manageable to the average user, the chances for problems will be reduced."

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags twitter

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Juan Carlos Perez

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?