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No One Cares About Location-Based Applications

by Sean P. Aune | August 5, 2010August 5, 2010 8:00 am PDT

To those of us deeply entrenched in technology, mobile applications and Web 2.0, we simply cannot escape talk of location-based applications such as Foursquare and Gowalla; news of what is going on with them, whether it be new features or rounds of funding, are constantly in the tech news.  However, in our typically myopic view of whatever interests us must also be of interest to the world at large, we somehow forgot to check in with the general public about their concern when it comes to telling the world where they are at all times.

Silly us, because it seems no one gives a rat’s behind.

According to a recent study by Forrester Research (via GigaOm) only four percent of the people the company polled have ever used services such as Foursquare and Gowalla, and of those, only half of them use them with any regularity.

location stats

As you can see from the graph, it isn’t even that the majority don’t care about them, they just simply don’t even know they exist!  A lot of arguments could be made for the idea that once they learn about them they’ll go gaga for them, but even those people that do know about them aren’t flocking to them.

The only ray of hope for marketers is that 80 percent of those that do use the services are male, and of those, 70 percent are between the ages of 19 and 35. While marketing shouldn’t be the be all, end all purpose of such services, it is how those companies will make money. The big ray of sunshine in all of this is the majority of people who use location-based applications are considered “influencers”; those people that will spread the word to other people, and who are generally trusted by people to keep them abreast of the newest and coolest things to use.

All of this falls pretty much in line with something I have been saying for quite a while, and that is that location-based apps are a feature of something bigger rather than being something that can stand on its own.  This is to say that if a company like Facebook with its massive 500 million users was to ever add check-ins to their accounts, they could very wellsteamroll right over these other companies.

Yet somehow these companies continue to get funding, such as Foursquare securing another $20 million at the end of June led by Ben Horowitz of Andreessen Horowitz.  Mr. Horowitz explained his thought process in a blog post by saying that he preferred funding CEOs over companies, and that the investment boiled down more to making sure Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley could continue to define the location space.

I’m sure the fact that companies such as Yahoo have been asking about a possible acquisition might have also helped the funding process along.

I use both Foursquare and Gowalla, and I’m not that terribly surprised by these results.  Whenever I mention that I use them to “non-techie” friends, they look at me like I’m insane.  There just aren’t that many people interested in sharing their every move with all of their followers.  If you add this feature to a service they use every day they may change their minds, but for now I just can’t see these services ever being anything more than a niche product.

What say you?  Are you interested in location-based apps?


Sean P. Aune

Sean P. Aune has been a professional technology blogger since July 2007, but his love of tech dates back to at least 1976 when his parents bought...

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