We've written about Twitter's upcoming Tweet geotagging a couple of times, but with news on how excited it's got Twitter developers, maybe it's time to wonder: Is geotagging Twitter's killer feature? Let's think about it.
Over at PCWorld there's an interesting piece headlined "Developers Salivating Over Twitter's Geolocation Plans," which pretty much runs as the hed suggests it will: PCWorld has spoken to a couple of very excited coders, keen to get to grips with the new geotagging API handles. Among them is Joel Strellner, founder of Twitturly, who foresees great value in geotagged Tweets for his inView app, which lets businesses monitor their (and their competitor's) brand mentions on Twitter. Joel thinks the ability to see where these people are Tweeting will deliver useful marketing statistics to his business customers.
Also delivering an opinion is Dennis Crowley who co-founded FourSquare—and his interest is obvious, since FourSquare is already integrated with Twitter and is essentially a location-based social network. Geolocation data in Twitter will simply add a whole new string of geographic data for FourSquare to wind into its app's structure. Developer Michael O'Connor also mentioned how geotagged Tweets could be wound into his upcoming Myallo Hotlist app, designed to show your friends location on a radar-like display, and help bring subject-sensitive "hotness" ratings to each person, thanks to keywords in their recent Tweets.
That's just three developers, all with different ideas—but there's a common theme here. Each coder is seeing how useful Tweet geolocation is, and they're all assuming that Twitter's users will turn the feature on more often than not (it's going to be an opt-in service, for safety.) And that's very interesting—particularly if you take a moment to think about the implications. Often-on geolocation is how Google's Latitude works, and its an assumption behind many location-based service systems, and some augmented reality ones too. But in today's Net-savvy world, people tend toward being protective of their online data, and the idea of transmitting one's geolocation on a permanent basis (a very sensitive piece of data) will make many people uncomfortable—Google's already had to tweak Latitude's powers to allay privacy fears.
But Twitter is something different. Its whole raison d'être is to broadcast one's life, thoughts, whims and so on. And if you enable Tweet geotagging, the only time your location will be broadcast to the world is when you choose to send a public Tweet. In other words, if you're already publicly Tweeting an opinion, it's pretty likely that you wouldn't be too protective of the location the Tweet came from (I've already half-jokingly suggested the name Perch for this location). Tweet geotag info could basically become the way that geolocation becomes acceptable to a broader share of the public. And that's pretty exciting.
Tied into Twitter's real-time news and opinion mojo, and exploited by some clever, entertaining or useful Twitter-based apps, geotagging really could become Twitter's killer feature.