announced yesterday that it would finally be adding location support and, while they certainly appear to be doing it right, we have to wonder about the new feature.Twitter
Twitter seems like it's a bit late to the game on this one, even though we've all been talking of the "location-based wars" lately. We already have Gowalla, Foursquare, MyTown, BrightKite and more - do we really need Twitter too?
First, we have to say that we're quite happy with the opt-in, "back out at any moment" method that Twitter is taking on including location into its service. Not only do its users have to opt in, they can even set the function to check every time they tweet as to whether or not they want to include location information. The specificity of the location data can also be chosen, whether you're including exact longitude and latitude coordinates or just letting everyone know you're in the hood.
So, on these points, we say "hurrah!" for doing the location thing right. Now, on to why we really won't be using it much, nonetheless.
When Twitter first came out, it was both a protocol and a place. That is, it was a website, Twitter.com, based on the 140 character message backbone. While the website was our only choice for a while, outside of text messaging, we quickly moved on to third-party clients that did it all much better. And now we have smartphone apps, web apps and desktop apps. Nowadays, Twitter feels much more like a protocol than place.
We've already moved on and separated out our location-based tweeting into a completely separate part of our brains. We have Gowalla, Foursquare, MyTown and Brightkite. We have our Twitter interaction where we just say something and we have our Twitter interaction where we mean to share our location. It just seems that, for those moments where we want to share our location in a useful manner, we already have a way and, much like the third-party clients out there, these other apps already do it better.
All of this isn't to say that including location data isn't a great idea. It could be followed up with some seriously interesting uses as more and more location data becomes available in the Twitter stream for outside apps to use. Too bad Twitter went the honorable route, however, and gave people a choice. For most of the tech savvy crowd out there, who use Twitter the most, we' re not sure that the Twitter homepage is going to be where we choose to include our GPS data. Most services have already found a way to include that data, by using Twitter in the way its been used best - as a simple messaging protocol that lays at the heart of some very cool interaction. Why would we want to enable the core to track us? That's just throwing our location data out there in the wind, to be gathered and used by whoever wants and that's not really the point. Context is what makes location important.
Where will all this location based tweeting come in handy? Real life situations like Haiti and Iran. And in some cases, maybe for good and maybe for bad. There is surely something to be done with all this data, but we can tell you one thing - in our day to day tweets, we will not be turning the GPS on.
But enough about us - will you be using Twitter's new location feature? Will you say yes when it asks or are you already satisfied with sharing your location with third-party apps?