Brightkite plans to launch a universal check-in API that will let users update their information on competing services like Gowalla, Foursquare and others later this month at South by Southwest, we believe.Location based social network
In a poll we ran last night about competing location networks, Mark Krynsky, founder of Lifestreamblog and CheckInBlog, left the following comment: "I'd like to see a a multi-checkin service make its appearance at SXSW that would allow me to check into all 3 mentioned in the poll (more if possible) at once.Think Ping.fm for checkin services." Brightkite co-founder Martin May replied: "working on exactly that."
Brightkite executives declined to share any further details before they unveil whatever it is that they are working on, but there are additional reasons to believe that we'll see a cross-system check-in tool from the company later this month. Brightkite API email list members were warned last month that major changes to the company's development platform were coming at a time that roughly corresponds with SXSW. TechCrunch coverage of the company's surprisingly high user numbers and local advertising deals from a week ago also includes brief mention of something coming around SXSW time.
A universal check-in system is the next logical step for location based social networks. It's just no fun to use one service but give up the ability to see where your friends on other networks are. Siloed social networks end up competing not on the quality of their services, but on the number of your friends they have locked-in to their network in particular. Setting users free through a universal, interoperable check-in would be a bold move. It will be interesting to see how Brightkite tries to do it and how its competitors respond. (We've got inquiries in asking a few of them.)
Hopefully a universal check-in system will be good for all players in the field. That was the vision of Yahoo's FireEagle, which you don't hear a lot about these days.
Brightkite says it has 2 million active monthly users and it was the clear winner in last night's ReadWriteWeb poll asking which location service people would use at SXSW. But it gets far less media hype these days than Foursquare and Gowalla and admittedly approximate web traffic services don't show Brightkite in the lead at all.
Either way, offering up a way to read from and write across multiple location based social networks would be absolutely fabulous. Our fingers are crossed that this is what we'll see from Brightkite in a few weeks and that it will be good.
Update: Foursquare founder Dennis Crowley says this is news to him and a reader in comments points out that Gowalla's API is read-only, making a universal check-in impossible. Gowalla has said it is working on a write capable version of its API, though. Time will tell what's going on! If not Brightkite, then somebody needs to build a universal check-in system ASAP. Google Buzz may be a good place to look for this as well, see How Google Buzz is Disruptive: Open Data Standards. Our fingers remain crossed.