GPS-based apps change the way New Yorkers socialize
Social networking has jumped from the virtual world to the real world.With the proliferation of software on mobile phones that lets people see friends’ locations, socializing is taking on a whole new dimension in the city. “I think it’s just Facebook’s appeal on a more local level,” said Joseph Gallo, 27, of Murray Hill, who uses Google Latitude, which is basically Google Maps pointing to your buddies’ locations. “You see your friends are around the corner, and instead of having a text or IM conversation, you’re using it as a tool to see someone [in person].” Location-based apps are made for cities, especially Foursquare, which was developed here. It informs you of friends’ whereabouts and about your immediate surroundings, from restaurants to cultural highlights. “Foursquare and similar mobile applications are the ultimate social utilities,” said Allison Mooney, vice president of emerging trends at MobileBehavior, a consultancy firm based in the city. “The real world is becoming overlaid with the Web.” GPS-based networking can be convenient and connective, but it also raises new social pitfalls. “It would be awkward … if I randomly stop by and the person is on a date or with a family member,” said 25-year-old Foursquare user Katie Morse, of Williamsburg. “You still have to respect social boundaries.” Shelly Palmer, a TV host and blogger who focuses on technology, said that advertising your location with a mobile phone is similar to having your number and address in the white pages. “What I always do is I send a text message, ‘hey, I’m around the corner, you guys up for some company?’ I’ve never dropped in on anyone ever. I don’t think that’s cool.” Invasion-of-privacy risks can be controlled on many of the biggest apps, and the benefits are huge, according to a number of users. “I think people in New York City move around a lot and are into experiencing new things, and it’s great they’re making applications based around that,” said Clayton McGratty, 26, of Bryant Park, who uses Foursquare.
Here are some of the most popular mobile applications that track you and your friends:Loopt — Loopt lets users see where their friends are and what they are doing via detailed interactive maps. Whrrl — Similar to Foursquare, this app tracks users’ “footstream” to create a shared digital record. Users can also join Whrrl Societies. Brightkite — Brightkite also lets users check in at places, allowing them to see who is nearby and who has been there before.
Foursquare — This NYC-developed application is similar to a game: Users check in when they visit their favorite places and earn badges and mayorships.