"How often do you find yourself wondering where your friends are and what they're up to? It's a pretty central question to our daily social lives, and it's precisely the question you can now answer using Google Latitude," explains Google's blog.
After installing Google Maps Mobile 3.0 (only available for Android, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile and Symbian S60 right now), you can share your location automatically or set your location manually. You can also post a short status and choose a profile photo.
Here's the complete list of things you can do using Latitude:
After selecting yourself, you can:
- Change your status message across Google products. Your status will only be shared with your current Google Talk or Gmail chat friends.
- Change your photo across Google products.
- Submit or edit your phone number in Latitude for your friends.
- Edit your privacy settings for all friends.
After selecting a friend, you can:
- Show the friend in map view.
- Search for places near your friend.
- Call if a phone number is available in your Google Contacts or Latitude.
- Chat using Google Talk or Gmail chat if available.
- Send an email.
- Get directions to the friend's approximate location.
- Set sharing options. You can choose to hide your location or share only city level location with individual friends.
- Remove the friend. Your friend cannot see your location and you cannot see the friend's location.
"Everything about Latitude is opt-in. You not only control exactly who gets to see your location, but you also decide the location that they see. For instance, let's say you are in Rome. Instead of having your approximate location detected and shared automatically, you can manually set your location for elsewhere — perhaps a visit to Niagara Falls. Since you may not want to share the same information with everyone, Latitude lets you change the settings on a friend-by-friend basis. So for each person, you can choose to share your best available location or your city-level location, or you can hide."
If your mobile phone is not yet supported by the new version of Google Maps, you can add an iGoogle gadget that has similar features.
Location-based services will be increasingly popular now that mobile phones with GPS and fast Internet connections become the standard and the privacy expectations are changing. Eventually, you'll be able to share your location with other applications and obtain personalized information, alerts and even recommendations. From this perspective, Yahoo's Fire Eagle is better-suited for shaping the future of location-based services.