Sumit Sharma

Check-In apps are over-rated…

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Check-In apps are over-rated, let me explain…
After SXSW this year, Check-In apps have really been gaining some momentum-click here for an awesome visual – and many people, including myself, are using Foursquare and GoWalla more than ever. Right now, they’re fun, even unleashing a little bit competitiveness by inducing check-in envy or by feeding our need to be a mayor of our local café. Now lets fast forward to a year, maybe two from now when location presence becomes quite mainstream in that there will be much more users than there is today, what will be special about these check-in apps then? In my mind, the question is what will they have to offer and what will make them stand out?

I believe a key value-add for these check-in apps will be the ability to make inferences from our check-in data, and provide some insight, or recommendations. How can this be made possible? By pursuing at least the following 3 steps at a minimum:

1. Federate data: It would be very interesting to see the analysis one could come up with if you combined data from various sources – Imagine the scenario where Blippy shares its API with both Foursquare and Facebook and vice versa, the product of this could provide some interesting insight into our behavior through insights gained by analyzing the layers of data about our purchasing behavior, social characteristics and where we hang out, thereby providing a richer context. It could influence serendipitous interactions with people, products, locations, ideas and God knows what else. It would make life exciting, and add value to our life. This democratization of data is something that not only will help alleviate the information asymmetry issues that still exist today, but it will spur further innovation through the various insights and conclusions that can be made possible when data is combined.

2. Enhance the mobile advertising platform: The impacts this will have on mobile advertising will be huge. We’re already seeing location centric advertising taking off, but if you add further layers of context to location centric advertising that will be even more valuable. Imagine a platform where advertising is provided by an algorithm that has layers and layers of contextual data, incorporating elements from various different plains.

3. Making us do a double take: We will all stop and think about what we’re doing, where and why. This can be a good thing. With this influx of data being produced by us comes a sense of responsibility in what we produce. This time, the responsibility has a direct impact on ourselves, because the data we create is what defines us. Every single data point becomes a part of our persona. Think about that for a minute. Data and time will become almost similar, in that they are what define us. Only difference is, with data you can turn back the clock so to speak – if you don’t like a piece of data the defines you, you can simply delete it. Eventually, we’re going to get tired of producing data and deleting it over and over again, and soon this will lead us towards not putting ourselves in a position where we will need to delete the data in the first place. This will fruition in the form of where we choose to be physically, who we hang out with, what websites we hit, books we read, products we buy etc. Its basically an extension of, “you are what you eat”.

So, long to short, Check-In apps are a medium to solving a part of the solution – that solution is comprised of several inputs as I’ve written about here. They are an input to what aggregators will need to make as the web a more valuable experience for us. An aggregator such as Facebook is in prime position for using check-in apps because through Facebook Connect, they are actually gathering data from many external sources as their external ecosystem continues to expand. Facebook already owns masses of data, however they are now getting the ability to contextualize their data in what were once unimaginable ways. They can add layers of our spending patterns, location distribution and restaurant menu choices to our data. In a way, I think making your app, such as blippy or foursquare available on Facebook is a short term gain, but a long term suicide. They gain by being on a platform that everyone is already a part off, thereby reducing the pains of adoption but my argument has always been, see a previous post about this, that at the end of the day, its not who owns the data, but what is done with the data – thats where the advantage will lie. Check-in is already getting commoditized – just look at GoWalla and Foursquare competing head to head, they’re already sharing APIs with Facebook and the like, and before we know it, it won’t be which app you’re using to check-in, or who is seeing you check-in, but what value is there in your check-in…and the check-in app will be a vehicle, a part of the puzzle, not the sexy app as it is treated today.

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Written by Sumit

April 1, 2010 at 4:24 pm

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