Google vs. Foursquare: Geolocation battle heats up

Google Latitude was launched early last year and has since harvested 3 million users

Apparently informing your friends that you're eating a turkey sandwich at the deli down the street is the most "interesting" fad of the moment, and Google wants the biggest slice of cake. At the Web 2.0 Expo, Google indicated it would be enhancing its Latitude service to give other location-based time-wasters -- like the achingly obnoxious Foursquare -- a run for their money. And now that Facebook has teamed up with McDonald's to launch a similar tracking system, the battle has begun to create the most stalkeriffic app.

Google Latitude was launched early last year and has since harvested 3 million users, but has gone largely forgotten. Three million is a hefty number, but it's worth mentioning that a quarter of Latitude users have zero friends, meaning nobody gives a flying hoot where you're at. Foursquare, on the other hand, boasts 1 million users, and after Yahoo's failed attempt at purchasing the app from creator Dennis Crowley for over $100 million, Foursquare has stolen the public's attention.

Google wants to change all that. Stealing a page from Foursquare's book, an enhanced Latitude would have a check-in feature and a bolstered location history scheme. And since nobody can match Google's grip on map data, Latitude would automatically add locations, whereas Foursquare requires user input.

But Latitude's biggest hurdle toward mass-popularity is the iPhone. Google built a Latitude app, but Apple -- who essentially hates Google -- rejected it from the App Store. The other gladiators, like the 2-million-strong MyTown, have been welcomed into Apple's arms, painting Latitude the wallflower.

If you, like many, really care about turkey sandwiches, Latitude's evolution is one to watch. Otherwise you can entertain yourself with good old fashioned restraining orders.

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Brennon Slattery

PC World (US online)
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