Within the last few days Twitter has announced plans to roll out Location-Based Tweeting as part of their service. According to the owners of the microblogging site, Twitter is going to become “location aware”.
The basic idea is nothing new as several Twitter platform developers (apps such as Ubertwitter) have been experimenting with location based Tweets for some time, despite the limited amount of support from the existing Twitter API. Most of these experiments have been based on the information that Twitter users can enter in the location field of their profile, so it’s hardly accurate or reliable.
When this feature is launched (date still to be announced), the new enhanced Twitter API will give users the option to automatically add latitude and longitude location to their tweets.
The Big Question
Which raises the big question - Do you really want people to know where you’re tweeting from?
To allay the legitimate privacy-related fears of many Twitter users, the new geo-location system will be off by default and will have to be activated on a tweet by tweet basis.
Additionally, the exact location data won’t be stored for an extended period of time, presumably to prevent other people building up a detailed profile as you move from location to location. However, this won’t stop unscrupulous people mining, storing and compiling your location data over time.
It’s possible to see how people who use this system and tweet dozens of times per day could have their security compromised by allowing people to forecast where they’re likely to be at any given time.
Rather than using the exact long-lat references, some people have suggested using a more human-friendly alternative, that allows you to tag each tweet with a location relative to the context of your life, such as “Office”, “Home”, “Car”, “Starbucks” etc.
This would give people who know you all the information they need and provide everyone else with some context of the location from where you’re tweeting without threatening your safety.
First, it’s estimated that 65% of tweets are still posted from the web. This will cause many misleading tweet locations to be posted. For example, the location of my ISP would register as being almost 500 miles from the location of my computer.
However, given the growth of the mobile web, this situation will become less of an issue at the months and years pass.
Second, even when mobile devices are used, many people have claimed that geo-targeting is less than accurate.
These issues aside, it’s possible to see the benefits of location based Tweets in certain circumstances.
In addition to reading the tweets of people you follow, you will also be able read tweets based on a specific location, which will make it easier to follow local news stories including earthquakes, accidents, concerts, tweetups, conferences etc without the need to resort to the use of hashtags.
Various street sellers like the Waffle Truck who tweet their location at various times throughout the day will find this feature invaluable.
It’s even possible to imagine the development of a powerful traffic status service that uses a combination of location based tweets and Google street view to provide people with real-time street based traffic reports.
At present Twitter plan to release the geolocation details to developers before the official launch, giving the programmers time to update their apps and platforms to include support for the new features. So by the time Twitter becomes location aware, your favorite Twitter platform should be able to cope with this new feature.
What do you think of this development? Do you like the idea of people knowing where you tweet from, or do you find the idea creepy?
How do you think this additional API data will be used? What innovative new geo-location ideas will appear?
Do you think this new feature will become popular, or does it signal the beginning of Twitter moving away from the simplicity that made it so popular?
As always, we’d like to hear what you think using the comments below.