Geo-social is a hot idea in the start up world right now, and refers to location-based social media, a concept not possible a few short years ago. GPS-laden smart phones have created opportunities for companies such as Foursquare, that are shifting how people interact with eachother and their environments.
Q. So we can guess this must mean “location-based social networking”, right?
A. Yep. Of course, its enabled by these shockingly powerful devices we all carry now, each with far more compute power than the systems that landed men on the moon. When you combine that with location detection through GPS, and add in with “persistence”—always being connected to the network—you create the opportunity for geo-social applications.
Q. How important is this idea? Is this evolutionary or revolutionary?
A. It’s revolutionary. Probably the first really big company in this area was Foursquare: the idea was that you go somewhere, use your phone to “check in”, and see who else you knew was there, or let your friends know that’s where they could find you. So, in its initial stage, “Geo-social” has been about “where are my friends”?
Q. Right. So what’s the next phase of the phenomenon?
A. Instead of “where are my friends”, its about “who are my friends”. There are a whole raft of new startups that are trying to connect people for the first time based on where they are, what activities they’re pursuing, even what pictures they’re taking.
Q. So, sort of a spontaneously created social network: you hadn’t known you shared interests with these people, but now you do. And you can meet them right then and there.
A. Exactly. And there are many other ways all this can work, too. For example, as you walk by a store, it might send you a message: hey, you know that pair of Manolo Blahniks you’ve been looking at on Pinterest? I’ve got them right here at 20% off if you come in now. That may sound far fetched, but I think its perfectly predictable.
Q. All part of the “post PC” era, as Apple likes to call it. You’re not just sitting at your desk with your computer anymore.
A. It always takes time for new capacities to be understood; at first, we always use new technology to do the old things in a new way. Then, suddenly, we realize that we can do completely new things. We’re just now waking up to brand new ways we can use persistently connected smartphones, and of these, “geosocial” applications are definitely among the most important.