Google Challenges Foursquare Without Fair Warning
Google quietly enters the “Social Check-in” game. Google updated its Google Maps application for Android on Feb 15th, 2012 failed to share with the world one of the new features. You can check the Google Maps webpage and the listing in the Android Marketplace and there is no mention of this new feature. What is this feature and what is it called? According to Engadget, it’s called Latitude Leaderboard but that just seems too generic to me. We’ll see what happens tomorrow when Google decides to respond to the blogoshere.
Google Latitude was added last year allowing you to check in to places and let friends and family know where you are and vice versa, but now when you check in, you are given points. This is just like Foursquare in the fact that it ranks you among your friends based on check ins. You get points and achievements based on various details with a check in. So far, it seems this Google version is just giving you points with no clarification on what the points are for.
After learning about this over at Engadget a few minutes ago, I loaded up Maps and found the check in option. I checked in and it moved me over to the leaderboard for this week (middle screenshot). Notice there is a big blank area, perfect for a logo, above the list? I have just a couple of friends that have checked in to get on the board, but I am already in 2nd. Go me! Below the leaderboard, there is a button to continue to the place you checked in to. Clicking that button brings you to a listing that is also similar to Foursquare where you can add photos. In addition to that, the listing gives you the ability to see the location on the map, get driving directions, call, visit their website, and even see the hours of operation. If I am not mistaken, most of that functionality has always been there.
Looking closer at these leaderboards, the data collection has been going a while. The left hand screen shows this week’s leaderboard. The middle screenie shows all time stats. Notice the right hand screenshot is for last week, right? Well, that’s as far back as I can look. Take Peter with 17 points last week and add his 0 this week so far and it does not equal 362, so they must have been collecting data for a few weeks now.
My guess is that this feature hasn’t been announced because it not finished. Perhaps the code was left in this recent update inadvertently.
Right now, it looks to me like it’s just an unfinished feature that was left in by mistake, but this could be big. You know how people get when you add badges and leaderboards as incentives. Things get real, real fast.
Does Foursquare have anything to worry about? They are already fighting off Facebook and other standalone apps like Gowalla. The problem with Google moving into your space is that Google has unlimited resources and they will throw the Beta tag on whatever they plan to call this for as long as it takes to compete.
Further digging uncovered a support page for Google Maps that shows even more Foursquare-like features:
While viewing a Place page, you can see which status level you’ve achieved based on your check-in frequency. Your status starts as Visitor and then progresses to Regular, VIP and Guru in most places, as you keep checking in (businesses may customise the names of status levels and icons).
To see your status level, look for the icon immediately below a location’s address on a Place page, accompanied by the text, “You’re a (Visitor/Regular/VIP/Guru) here”. Touching your status level will bring you to the Recent check-in history page.
Keep checking in to achieve a new status level or maintain your existing one!
View Recent check-in history to see how many times you’ve checked into a location. You may also view your check-in history by enabling Location History.
While viewing a Place page, you may discover that some businesses provide offers. Offers can only be unlocked by checking in to the location.
Touch the offer to see full details. Simply show your phone at the place providing the offer to redeem it.
If the place that you’re checked in to doesn’t provide offers, this section won’t appear on a Place page.
I think it is completely safe to say that Foursquare has a Bullseye on it’s back now.