Top of Mind

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So, we’re almost a month into the new decade and it’s already apparent that last year’s “hot topic”—the race for realtime search—has quickly been replaced by location-based social networks. The gurus at social media site Mashable last year correctly predicted that location-based networks would become “next year’s Twitter.” Foursquare and Gowalla, meantime, rank among TechCrunch’s favorite products for 2010.

But one can’t help but wonder if even they are surprised it would happen so soon. According to a recent Mashable reader poll, Foursquare was the clear favorite, with 47% of the vote, while Yelp garnered 26%.

Foursquare, Gowalla and Yelp all benefit from first mover advantage, but a host of similar geo-location services such as Britkite are popping up daily. What’s more, the trio have added a number of incentives by including game-like features. For example, the services let you “check in” to destinations, which not only allow your friends to know where you are, but let you accrue discounts and badges for doing things (with Foursquare, for example, you can become the “mayor” of your favorite haunts).

Interestingly, the popularity of these Apps this seems to have touched something of a landgrab among the Big Guns. Twitter is planning to launch location-based trending topics, according to Mashable, while Nokia has introduced location-sharing to Facebook. The mobile-phone behemoth offers a streamlined version permitting users to share their location and status updates on its Ovi Maps application and post the location onto Facebook. Could the simplicity of Nokia’s offering — on the world’s most popular social network — be the tipping point that catapults geo location services to mass adoption for location-based applications?

Early adopters have readily embraced location-based services. Now that Twitter and Nokia have entered the fray with simpler to use applications, it’s just a matter of time before we see if the services are adopted by the masses. Without doubt, location-based apps have firmly established themselves as the first seriously hot products of the year, and it will be exciting to see how they evolve as 2010 progresses.

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