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February 1, 2011

Google Latitude Check-ins

Google Latitude is useful if you want to share your location with a group of friends, but not everyone wants to do that. As Foursquare's success showed, people want to manually "check in" and only share some of the places they visit.

To make Google Latitude more useful and to better integrate it with other social services, Google added support for check-ins. "You can still use Latitude to automatically update and share your location, but check-ins let you add context to the location — like captions to a photo," explains Google. It's an opportunity to improve Google Maps by sharing your favorite places, which could also make social recommendations better.


Check-ins connect locations to places and they're better suited for sharing because there's no real-time tracking involved. Google says that check-ins will be added to your Google Buzz stream and you can share them with your friends, make them public or private. There are some additional features that help you use check-ins: notifications to check in at a nearby place once you arrive, automatic check-ins at specific places, the option to check out and status level (visitor/Regular/VIP/Guru). Google Places pages include information about your check-ins, your friends' check-ins and your status.

Check-ins are supposed to work if you use the latest version of Google Maps for Android. If you use an iPhone, you should see a new version of the Latitude app in the near future. I've installed Google Maps 5.1 for Android, but I couldn't find the new features.


Google says that there are 10 million active Latitude users. Check-ins could attract new users and make Google's social services more popular.

Ironically, check-ins were made popular by Foursquare, a startup created by Dodgeball's founder and former Google employee Dennis Crowley. Dennis quit Google two years after Google acquired Dodgeball. "The whole experience was incredibly frustrating for us - especially as we couldn't convince them that dodgeball was worth engineering resources, leaving us to watch as other startups got to innovate in the mobile + social space."

{ Thanks, Michael. }

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