Why should location-based social networks be worried about Google? Because its new Latitude product was able to gain over a million users in just a week, Google’s vice president of engineering Vic Gundotra told an audience at the Mobile World Congress today.
Latitude is Google’s service that uses your location to place you on a Google Map. If you have friends who are also using the service, you can see how close they are to you on your map and read their status updates. It’s a similar idea to what startups like Loopt and Pelago’s Whrrl do.
While a million users may not actually seem like that many considering Google launched the service in over 20 countries around the world, it’s a pretty impressive number given just how clunky the service is right now. While the version running on Google’s Android mobile operating system works pretty well, as it presumably does on BlackBerry, WIndows Mobile and Symbian devices, a lot of users are likely accessing it through the desktop version, which is a mess. The main problem is that Google decided to make it a widget tied to services like its iGoogle homepage, rather than a standalone web app.
And the service isn’t yet available for the iPhone or iPod touch, the device which arguably made the aforementioned location-based networks popular. When it does launch on those devices, it should gain users even more quickly.
I also find it somewhat humorous that at a time where everyone is up in arms about Facebook’s terms of service tweak that may or may not give it certain rights to the content you put on that site, a million people have voluntarily let Google know exactly where they are.
Latitude still has a ways to go before it reaches the mobile usage numbers of the two biggest social networks, Facebook and MySpace. MySpace said about 15 percent of its traffic is coming from mobile usage, while Facebook says it has 25 million mobile users, as Search Engine Land points out. Of course, neither of them have yet to get into the location game — but it’s only a matter of time.