Friday, December 10, 2010

Brightkite Yields to Foursquare, Gowalla, Etc.

Brighkite has made an announcement today that affects me and a handful of other people (not counting all the people on Facebook whose timelines I inadvertently spam): Brightkite is dropping check-ins, posts and streams.

Brightkite started 3 years ago with a Twitter-like ability to share your random musings. However, it took the Twitter idea further and integrated built-in photo sharing and geolocation for each post. It was a while before Twitter even opted to offer location in tweets, and it still relies on third-party services to link photos. Brightkite also allowed for comments on posts and more robust friend (and fan) management. But being better or first didn't quite count (which reminds me, does anyone have a Betamax VCR I can borrow?). From Brightkite regarding place check-ins, photos, and user/place streams:

These features were the defining element to our company 2 and 3 years ago, but we no longer believe they are sufficiently unique or defining to be our focus, so we are dropping them.

Brightkite itself is not going away. It will focus on its group text feature, something for which I do not have any need. I did practically eulogize the loss of these features three months ago when Brightkite announced its first change in direction (Brightkite Changes Direction). I'll spare you the recap.

Others Starting to Offer Similar Features

GowallaThis isn't the only change in the location-based social media space, however. The idea of attaching photos to places and not just tweets has been gaining traction. Last March, Gowalla offered the ability to attach photos to a place (The Location-Based Wars Rage On: Gowalla Adds Comments, Photos & More). Users checking in to a place can see images from other users or contribute their own. The interface for the mobile application is a bit clunky, and it's not a major feature of the service, but it re-creates some of what we saw in Brighkite.

Gowalla announced just a few days ago that it is going to integrate with Foursquare and Facebook places, allowing users to see their friends in one stream of activity. This is a converse of the single-point check-in service offered by Check.in, offered by Brighkite, that allows users to check in to Brighkite, Foursquare and Gowalla at once using some place matching tricks.

FoursquareJust yesterday Mashable posted a theory that Foursquare is going to add photo sharing, based on a screen shot from a user and comments made by the Foursquare CEO about new features in the works. If Foursquare is really offering this feature, it essentially re-creates a core feature of Brigktkite. Whether it will offer a stream of photos with comments is anyone's guess. If it does pan out, it keeps Foursquare ahead of Gowalla, owing partly to Foursquare's Tips feature (Brightkite Photo Tips, anyone?).

Gowalla and Foursquare aren't the only players in the location-based world of photos. For those who know me, Foodspotting is right up my alley, allowing users to post food photos that are associated with food venues. SCVNGR also allows people to post photos with places as part of its overall game model, awarding points for the activity. There just isn't a good way to access those photos for users who are just checking in to a place to play the game. Facebook Places tries to offer some of these features, but it gets lost in the mountain of other things users can do on Facebook and certainly has its own batch of privacy issues beyond just giving up your location.

While users can now associate a tweet with a place and post a photo readily from their mobile phones, the existing photo sharing services don't provide a way to see all images associated with a place. That is why place-centric services are starting to see the value of relying on user-generated imagery to bolster their core offering — checking in to places. In the end, being able to see photos of food, the venue, the crowd, the lighting, specials, and the local drunk may be far more compelling reasons to use a check-in service than earning badges or pins.

That Brighkite is stepping away from this saddens me, but there are clearly going to be others offering at least some of those core features in the near future.

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