Google Latitude: 3m Users, Are We Impressed?

Steve Lee, product manager for Google Maps for Mobile and Latitude, said during a panel at the Web 2.0 Expo that their friend finder service, Google Latitude, currently has three million active users. He also added that until now around 8 million people have registered since the service launched in February 2009 (read here).

If we consider the service has been available since day one on multiple devices in 27 countries and 42 languages that is not really impressive.

Let’s put it in perspective: Loopt has well over 3 million users (probably closer to 4 million) — watch our interview with CEO Sam Altman here — and they are only available in the U.S.. Foursquare has over 1 million and Gypsii said back in February that they have added 1 million new users in their last quarter.

If we consider the marketing/exposure power of the internet giant compared to these start-up companies, three million is not a great achievement. Let’s not forget that Latitude is part of Google Maps for Mobile on most phones, a service that currently has over 50 million active users — per Google’s Ed Parsons presentation at the Location business Summit in Amsterdam.

Interestingly, Steve Lee also said that only 10% of Latitude users are running it on an Android phone. In addition, he pointed out that one quarter of these three million users have zero friends on the service. This obviously opens up the question about what is an active user — with no friend to share their location with, I guess the activity of these 750,000 users is relatively low.

To Google’s defense, Latitude is an always-on service and the lack of background location on the iPhone has surely hindered its development. With the upcoming iPhone OS 4.0 offering background location, this barrier is likely to disappear.

Another reason of the — relative — lack of traction of Latitude might be linked to the deteriorating image of Google in the public opinion worldwide. When it comes to privacy, Peeping-Tom-Streetview-Cars have not been the best ambassadors of the Mountain View company, especially in some European countries such as Germany. No surprise why the same consumers are not likely to trust Google in logging their every instant location on their servers.

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