Facebook Geolocation Feature Confirmed

Rumors have been doing the rounds is Facebook is onto something on the location front. TechCrunch has noted snippets of code from Facebook’s touchscreen version touch.facebook.com which point to a feature that can pull in information regarding the users’ latitude, longitude, altitude, heading and speed.

In a more implicit confirmation of the same, the company has communicated the following to TechCrunch

“There are currently no plans to add marketing partners to this product. We may consider working with marketers to enhance the experience in the future, but have no plans to do so at launch.

We wonder what this product is going to be.

[via TechCrunch]

Facebook Working On FourSquare Killer

Checking-in” has suddenly become sexy and every startup in town is trying to incorporate it into their core service. After Yelp and Gowalla, Facebook too is trying to introduce a “check-in” feature to users of its mobile website.

Checking in was first introduced by New York based startup, FourSquare. The service that offered reward points for multiple check-ins has proved to be extremely popular among its users that other LBS startups too have been trying to introduce the service to their users.

However unlike Yelp or Gowalla, Facebook is a massive network that can squash the ambitions of a small time startup like FourSquare. However, Dennis Crowley, Founder of FourSquare seems unfaced and is in fact enthused by the entry of Facebook which could help make checking-in the “commodity of the year”. Crowley says

“I think we’re doing this better than anyone else and I think we’ll continue to do so. We have so much stuff on the whiteboard that we haven’t even touched yet… we’re really just getting started.”

Competition in this segment is just heating up and it will be interesting to see how 2010 pans out for each of these startups.

[via Business Insider]

Microsoft’s Local Search Algorithm A Privacy Nightmare?

Local search is big and everyone is jumping into this segment. And for a fact, we all tend to realize that the local results from major search engines is nothing to brag about; except if you are in a high internet density area like New York or San Francisco.

While companies have been devising different ways to go local, Microsoft’s new technology seems to offer you very relevant local search results; except that it can be a privacy nightmare.

In a patent filed recently with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), Microsoft has described a new way to rank local search results. The inventors cite the following issues with current search results

  • Search engines make use of link authority to rank results. While they are good for most cases, they are not exactly relevant when a person is searching for say ‘Italian restaurants near MG Road, Bangalore’. This is because restaurants around MG Road in Bangalore might not necessarily have good PR value
  • Some search engines make use of  ‘click popularity’ where sites which have been clicked a higher number of times tend to be ranked higher. These sites create a positive feedback loop which does not help in showing the relevant results

To overcome these, Microsoft has proposed the usage of the users’ access log in order to study the pages visited in a specific time period and build an implicit pagerank for pages from the user log which will be used as a factor while  displaying search results. So in the earlier example, if the user has visited BangaloreRestaurants.com, results from this website could fetch higher weightage than results from a site like Yelp.

Microsoft says this technology will be particularly useful while ranking pages from intranet websites. While the algorithm sounds interesting, making use of a user’s access log sounds scary. Users are not always comfortable giving third party websites access to the sites they visit. Something does not sound right in Microsoft’s plan to record this log, processing them for implicit pageranking and delivering results back to the user.

What do you think? Are the fears justified or are they unfounded?

TeleNav Building GPS-Based Blogging System

Telenav, the Sunnyvale based maker of GPS Navigator might probably be looking at location-based blogging as the next logical step in their product diversification. In a patent filed earlier this month, the inventors from the company have described a technology that will help users create and read location-based blog entries.

What exactly is location-based blogging? Telenav inventors explain that in the current scenario, users can geotag any of the multimedia that they wish to share. While this is interesting to the readers, it is not particularly useful if a reader is looking at particular location based information. For instance, a user might want to take a look at all pictures taken from the top of the Empire State Building. Telenav sees location-based blogging as being able to categorize geotagged multimedia and offer valuable content to the readers. The inventors write

“a need remains for a mobile location based blogging system to efficiently create, populate and manage location-based blogs and to make the process of creating new User Generated Content for those location-blogs. In view of the ever-increasing added features desired by consumers in their mobile client devices, it is more and more critical that answers be found to these problems.”

The inventors explain the process with the help of an illustration

“FIG. 6A displays a street map on the multimedia display interface 210 of the client 102 of the general purpose mobile location-blogging system 100. In another example, FIG. 6B illustrates a set of general purpose location-blogs in a list format on the multimedia display interface 210 of the client 102.”

“n FIG. 6C and 6D, therein are illustrated the multimedia display interface 210 of a location-blog entry. For example, in an operation with update location-blog command, the client 102 can accept a location-blog command user input and a multimedia user input that can include a video recording, audio recording, image, text, multimedia data, or any combination thereof. The location-blog command and the multimedia data are sent to the server 104 of FIG. 2 in the server request 202 of FIG. 2. The server 104 can create a new location-blog entry that is associated with the new multimedia data. “

GPS-based blogging appears to be an interesting invention which can be quite popular. What is your view on this? Let us know in the comments.

IBM Jumps Into Location-Aware Technology

Location and Geotagging seem to be the flavor of the season and IBM seems to be the latest entrant. In a new patent filed at the US Patent and Trademark Office, IBM has sought the credits for a location aware authorization technology.

As the inventors put in their application, companies who offer laptops to their employees might not want them to access certain confidential data outside the office premises. In such cases, this technology will help companies in doing a double check – Check user login credentials as well as verify geographical location of access before granting access.

The patent filing is interesting for two reasons. One, it is probably the first time that IBM is filing a GPS-technology based patent. Secondly, the utility of such a setup needs to be determined considering we are moving towards a networked workplace where employees work from home, shuttle between client locations, etc.

What do you think?