When Twitter announced at its Chirp conference in May that it planned to launch a new feature called Points of Interest based on a user’s location, the immediate reaction from some was that this would be a “Foursquare-killer.” Instead, the two largest location-based services — Foursquare and Gowalla — are both partners in the feature now known simply as Places, which Twitter announced today on its blog. Users will be able to select from a list of places in their area when they post a tweet from either the Twitter home page, the mobile site, or the Foursquare and Gowalla apps. Twitter said the feature will soon be added to the Twitter apps for iPhone, Android and BlackBerry as well.
The new feature isn’t just designed to broadcast where you are to all your Twitter followers, however. The company clearly sees it as a way of allowing users to browse through tweets (and Foursquare and Gowalla check-ins) either when they are in a specific location or when they merely want to find out what is happening there. As the Twitter blog post describes, when you click on a Twitter Place within a tweet, you can see messages from other users who also used that location (some Twitter clients such as Twittelator have also had a similar feature for some time called “search nearby”).
The location data comes through partnerships that Twitter has with TomTom and Localeze. Although the company didn’t mention it as part of the launch post, the geo-location technology it is using for the new feature is also likely based on its acquisition of Mixer Labs, creator of the GeoAPI service, in December. The company was started by a group of former Google product managers and created a database and index of geo-locations using latitude and longitude data.
It will be interesting to see whether access to Twitter Places integration — and the ability to see tweets from others in the same location — makes users less likely over time to check in via Foursquare or Gowalla from those places. And when Twitter rolls out its new Annotations platform, which will allow services to add metadata of various kinds to a tweet, it’s possible that location-based tweets could be tagged as reviews of those places (if they were restaurants, for example), which would provide similar functionality to the tips users can provide in Foursquare and review services like Yelp. Facebook is also expected to join the party by launching location-based features of some kind in the near future.
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