In a move that seemed inevitable, Google Latitude announced the ability to check-in to places.
Latitude is a 2-year-old service that has allowed people to share their location with others. However, until now, that location was simply a pinpoint (with photo) within Google Maps. Though they boast a Latitude user base of 10 million people, Google is late to the game, behind forerunners FourSquare, GoWalla, Yelp and even Facebook. Many, myself included, have wondered what took them so long.
This leaves Google with something to prove to why they should earn the social check-ins of the masses. How will Google differentiate their check-ins from the other social leaders out there? Without fail, Google has answers.
On Foursquare, you can be a mayor. On Yelp, you can become a duke. Google will reward its loyal check-in users with multiple titles. For multiple check-ins to the same location, you can become a "regular," "VIP," or "Guru." For those that are all about the titles, it's already a more involved game. For those looking for badges or stickers, keep waiting.
Check-ins Simplified With Google Maps Integration
Google already has millions of Android smart phone users who have Google Maps installed on their phone. Latitude integration has already been a part of the product. It takes one touch to turn on the Latitude layer from within the app. Another touch on a small checkbox icon pops up a list of nearly places. One last tap of your finger checks you into that place.
While it's still three taps, it's integrated into the maps application most people already have open. Users do not need to exit Maps and launch a new app.
Making it Easier
Google has offered two ways to help forgetful (or lazy) people to check in easier. First, Google has introduced notifications. When you are in range of a location you have marked as favorite place, you can have Google notify you, reminding you to check in. If you're still not satisfied, you can also have Latitude automatically check you in.
Lastly, Latitude will also automatically check you out of a location once you leave, promising that your friends won't be "left guessing if you're still there."
Privacy is always a concern. Apparently learning from their privacy mistakes with Buzz, Google promises everything is opt-in. Further, you can choose which of your Google contacts you choose to share with. You also have options to post to your Google account profile page.
No news yet on how this will integrate with Google's up and coming HotPot. And so far, you can only check into locations that have a Google Places page. However, there are reviews built into the Places page. Those reviews are also fed into HotPot. Further, no news yet on how Google Offers will fit into this.
Yet another social networking tool is in place. As Google continues to converge into social space, the transition will be fascinating to watch.