Where is that friend of mine? Who else likes to go there? Where is that place on the map? It's simple, useful questions like this that location based social network Shizzow aims to answer and the service just opened up today to users outside of beta location Portland, Oregon to now include users anywhere in California.

There are lots of location based social networks available, but this one is refreshingly simple. Is that enough to effectively differentiate Shizzow? It's going to have to be, because there's not much else about the service that's unique. Most features are easily reproduced, however, and usability may be the key point of competition in this market.

Shizzow let's you "shout" about where you are, based on the name of the place instead of its address (that's figured out in the back end), and listen to the shouts of friends' locations. You can see who hangs out at particular locations and what locations your friends hang out at most often. Ultimately, the service should help your lonely self connect with people in public more often, if that's something you're looking for.

Posting can be done through a mobile interface, a Google Gadget or the Shizzow web page. There's some IM and SMS integration as well.

Is there an API? Not yet. When will it open for general availability? Just before the SXSW conference - that's pretty cliche, but it could work.

Why would you use this instead of Brightkite, Loopt, something built on top of Yahoo Fire Eagle? If you're comfortable using any of those services already, you probably have no need to use Shizzow. The company's attempts to explain how different their service is haven't been particularly convincing.

The Upside

If you're looking for a less geeky, attractive, easy to use location based network to use with a wider circle of people than just early adopters - Shizzow will likely play well with that crowd (the rest of the world). If we told you three years ago that a simple service that let you broadcast 140 characters or less about "what you're doing" was going to take the world by storm, you'd probably have called us crazy. Similarly, comparing location based social networks on features may not be the best criterion.

Usability is key to adoption beyond the relatively small number of people who obsess over every feature and Shizzow is simple, clean looking and usable. Location based social networking sometimes feels so bleeding edge pretentious that you wonder whether these communities even want more users. That's not the feeling you'll likely get looking around Shizzow.

Does the the world at large want to find friends and be found via short messages? We're not sure, but it's possible. Can Shizzow take its simple, useful tool out into the world successfully? We'll see, location based social networking is a new paradigm and given privacy concerns (even if they're not rationally "valid") it could be a hard sell to mainstream users.

Shizzow is now available for users in California. Drop by, give it a try and let us know what you think. See also WebMonkey's interview with the Shizzow CEO this morning, it's an interesting discussion about side projects, simplicity and mobile communication.