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February 11, 2009

You Don't Need To Know Where This Rant Was Written

By Rob Diana of Regular Geek (Twitter/FriendFeed)

Location-based services are all the rage. Mobile computing allows people to work from anywhere. Now, with GMail's new location based signature labs feature, people will know where you were working. Wow! This is fantastic! Now, anyone I e-mail will know that I am working from home or even at the beach! If you can not read the sarcasm, then let me tell you that I just do not understand why we need this. Thankfully, I am not alone in this feeling.

Svetlana Gladkova of Profy worries because email one of the few places you can still hide from people.
"Of course you certainly don’t have to use this feature and since it is in Labs you should be pretty determined to share your location with anyone you send emails to in order to activate it. But experience shows that the ideas that are born at Google first will eventually turn into wildly popular and used applications that many people will rely on for whatever purposes they may and this will make it much more difficult to hide behind your e-mail address in the future."

Even ReadWriteWeb's coverage questions why people would want to use it.
"Why would you want to do this? Maybe you want to highlight your jetsetting lifestyle. Maybe you want to remind the recipient that you're in a different time zone. Or you might just want to use it as a mnemonic device for searching sent e-mail based on the location from where it was sent."

Google is obviously making a very big move into location-based services. They recently launched Latitude, their location sharing service. Their are other location sharing services as well. Brightkite and Loopt seem to be the most popular or at least the most hyped. The real question is why do people feel that sharing their location is helpful?

I can understand that people may want to know who is currently in their city or who lives in the same general location, but that information can typically be found through most social networks or the social event and travel sites like Upcoming and Dopplr.

So, why do we need to know who is near at every moment? Outside of the coolness factor, what problem do these services solve? I can understand that UPS may want to know where their trucks are, but that can be solved using basic GPS hardware and applications. What benefit do people really get by knowing where people in their network may be in their town? I just do not get it, but maybe I am just being too practical.

Image by onebutan-iphone
Read more by Rob Diana at RegularGeek.com.