Opportunities and Problems of Foursquare-like LBS

Foursquare-like Location-Based Service (LBS) is hot these days.

However, as also noticed by other people, one of the big problems with current LBS is how to provide more value than simply asking people to “check-in”. Once the novelty of checkin for badge wears off, people get bored to use Foursquare-like LBS.

There is still room for innovation in LBS.

Ideally, at first, LBS should provide users with value-added information, such as nearby breaking news, deal, promotions, interesting people, places recommended by others, and the like, at the right time at the right place. Secondly, LBS should NOT overwhelm the user with lots of information of little interest to the users (for example, twitter’s user usually receives many tweets of little interest to him from their following users), in another word, LBS needs to improve the signal-to-noise ratio, so that users can easily focus on information of interest to them (in particular, user has different interest, one information may be interesting to user A, but may be no interest at all to user B).

To achieve this goal, I think categorize the information/place and geotag it when user post it are the right ways to both provide value-added information to user and improve the signal-to-noise ratio. In this way, different local business (e.g., restaurant, store, etc) and different users (e.g., who want to sale something, who what to make friend, who want to share news or deal with others) can post categorized information to their targeted users. And other users can find out the information/people/places of interest to them efficiently by simply selecting a radius and category, without wasting time to filter out the information one-by-one by themselves .

To implement the above idea, I developed an innovative LBS service called NearbyFeed (iPhone, Android app and website). It is a foursquare-like location-based platform for advertising, social networking and microblogging. The core value of NearbyFeed is to make it easier for user to “Discover what’s happening around me and everywhere”.

The main differences between NearbyFeed and other LBS (e.g., foursquare) are:

1.  the status posted by the user is categorized (e.g., status, photo, news, deal, food, entertainment, fashion, housing, marketplace, etc) and geo-tagged, in order to both improve the signal-to-noise ratio for the viewer and increase the visibility of the status shared to others. For example, user A posts a status of deal category at place A in San Francisco, this will be broadcasted to both user A’s followers and nearby users. Let us say, nearby user B who is interested in recent deals at San Francisco may checkin at place B in San Francisco, then select a radius (e.g., < 50km) and deal category to ONLY explore the deals within 50 km. As long as the distance between place A and B is less than 50km, the status posted by user A is visible to user B even if user B is not the follower of user A. In this way, the information may be broadcasted to the interested people more efficiently and faster, since the viewer do not need to go over all categories of status update to find out the deal of interest to him. As shown below:

webpage: http://www.nearbyfeed.com/place/stream/8eb84411c5058836a0ecc075825de43e?stream_type=deal&tab=6

iPhone Screenshot:

Android Screenshot:

2.  NearbyFeed uses the twitter-like one-way follow model, rather than the facebook-like bi-direction friend model, to make it easier for user to obtain information from other people without waiting for anyone accepting your friend request, and to make it possible for user/business to interact with lots of people who follow him as well as a limited set of people who he is interested in. And user can edit privacy setting to limit access to all the information (e.g., status, location, checkins, profile, followers) about him to a limited set of users.

3. Any status posted by the user has its own profile page to aggregate relevant information, such as related status (e.g., which status this status is replying directly to, which statuses commented this status, to which topic/conversion all the related status/comments belong), ratings to this status, map of the place where the status is posted, author, followers of the author, etc, as well as to let other people interact with this status (e.g., rate, favorite, comment, etc). And any comment to this status will be treated just as a normal status with its own profile page and be automatically broadcasted to all the followers of the commenting user and nearby users. When his follower receives this comment, they can very easily understand the history, context, and origin of this comment, what other people are saying about the related statuses, how they rated the related statuses (their opinions), by navigating among the profile pages of the related statuses. As shown below:

webpage: http://www.nearbyfeed.com/status/9357

iPhone screenshot:

Android Screenshot:

4. multiple checkin methods. User can checkin at a place by GPS (coordinate → address), or by searching address on map (address → coordinate), or by moving the red pin on the map for new address (coordinate on map → address). As shown below:

iPhone screenshot:                          Android screenshot:

webpage (need to log in): http://www.nearbyfeed.com/me/place/add_venue

5. User can rate, favorite, comment and recommend any place to his followers and nearby users. And this kind of aggregated social recommendation for a place provide a good reference for himself, his followers and nearby users. As shown below:

webpage: http://www.nearbyfeed.com/place/d89fc8c40770f282601f74cf3cf469d9

iPhone screenshot:                   Android screenshot:

6. User can attach photo to any status update, and optionally also add photo to an album. The photos in album may be shown as list view, grid view, map view and gallery view. As shown below:

iPhone screenshot:

Android screenshot:

Webpage: http://www.nearbyfeed.com/album/69

7. Map view of stream (public, nearby, favorited, categorized), nearby people and nearby categorized places, in addition to list view. As shown below:

iPhone screenshot:

Android screenshot:

8. Different from twitter like service, the character limit for status update in nearbyfeed is 1000, rather than 140, to make it easier to exchange information. This is because many information can not be represented within 140 characters.

iTune App Store Download: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/nearbyfeed/id402345573?mt=8

Android App: Android Market, keyword “Nearbyfeed”

In short, NearbyFeed’s iPhone, Android application and website make it easier for user to

  1. discover what’s happening around me in realtime from anywhere and at anytime, by selecting a radius (e.g. < 50km) and a category (e.g. status, photo, deal, news, restaurant, housing, travel, sport, fashion, etc) after checkin at a place.
  2. explore nearby interesting places, such as, restaurant, store, entertainment, sport, etc.
  3. follow nearby people and see what they are doing, where they are and who they are with.
  4. favorite any information and place for future reference
  5. share information (e.g., deal, photo, event, news, health, etc), places and opinions with followers and nearby people.
  6. overlay nearby information, places and people on map to have a intuitive view of where the information is from, where the place/person is, how far from me, and how to get to the place.

Find NearbyFeed on AppStoreHQ.
Apps at AppStoreHQ

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