November 03, 2009

Stalqer: A Location Sharing App for Real Friends

I have always felt my life was not interesting enough to broadcast every small update. That's a major reason why I was initially slow to embrace Twitter, and why, thus far, I have shunned application broadcasting services like BrightKite and the extremely popular at the moment Foursquare. But a new application, set to hit the Apple iTunes Store any day now, called Stalqer, has a permanent position on my iPhone, because instead of being focused on badges and contests, its aim is to connect real friends, and it can work in the background - enabling me to have it run passively as I go about my business.

Stalqer Shows Connections on a Map And I Can Message Them

Mick Johnson, creator of Stalqer, and I met a few weeks ago, and he said he felt the focus for designing such an app was not to start up contests about how often somebody could check in to a specific location, and he didn't want people to create yet another user account for his app. In fact, he felt services like FourSquare created the badges mentality to force people to "check in", as the application would not automatically do so.

My Stalqer News Feed and an Update from Mick

In contrast, Stalqer utilizes Facebook Connect to have you log in, and it can present you the last-known location of your friends on Facebook. If they are using Stalqer, these friends' locations will start to populate your News Feed and you can send them messages from within the application itself, assuming you have their e-mail addresses registered with Facebook. Stalqer also makes updating your location very simple, as you can tell it to update in the background, every time you check your e-mail. If you are in WiFi range or connected to 3G, Stalqer can update your location throughout the day, without your even having to open the app.

Background Preferences and Connections in Stalqer

Stalqer shares some similarities to Google Latitude as much as it does the more-hyped FourSquare, in that your friends' avatars display on a map. You can zoom out as much as you like, to see how your Facebook connections are strung across the globe. But it's those nearest to you that are of course the most interesting. If you peek at the screenshot in this post, you'll see fellow tech blogger Steve Gillmor at the nearby Starbucks, and Robert Scoble visiting the Cupertino Apple Campus - both close enough for a quick drive. Using Stalqer, I could send either a message and meet up.

Depending on your preferences, you can get updated via Push alerts on the iPhone if friends manually check in to a location, or if they get within a certain number of miles. And if you wanted to, Stalqer has a "Places" function, which selects from the nearest registered and known places for you to announce you have arrived. If a place doesn't exist, you can add it yourself.

Choose Registered Places In Stalqer Or Who Has Checked In

If you do utilize the "Places" functionality in Stalqer, you can see which other Facebook Friends are checked into the same place. For example, when Mick Johnson checked in to the Googleplex in Mountain View last week, I could click through and see who else was there. In fact, if I wanted, I could even check in there myself and announce I had arrived, even if that wasn't true. You decide whether that's a feature or a bug...

Don't get thrown off by the "Stalqer" name, as the app is no more invasive than many others we already use today. I wouldn't ask Stalqer to change the name. The biggest bug so far tends to be its speed. With 1,300 Facebook connections, it can be slow to get avatars and updates. I'll be very interested to see how the service holds up once it hits the iTunes Store.