Last week Twitter announced it will include geolocation in standard in its short message system. Along with the option to geo-tag updates, users will be able to search for nearby tweets and view the geo metadata in user timelines.
So far many developers have been able to add location to tweets in their applications but it was not directly supported by Twitter. “We’re gearing up to launch a new feature which makes Twitter truly location-aware”, said a post from Twitter CEO Biz Stone. “A new API will allow developers to add latitude and longitude to any tweet. […]We’re very excited about the potential of location metadata combined with Twitter. ”
Before launching it on its own website, Twitter is giving its developers a preview of the API to let them develop. “We’re going to release geolocation to platform developers before we add the feature to Twitter.com. Most of the mobile applications people use and love are built by Twitter platform developers.”
Back in June Twitter hired Ryan Sarver from Skyhook Wireless, a major provider of Wi-FI geolocation services. At Skyhook Sarver was director of consumer products and he was been at the forefront of the “geo-web” being the founder and chair of the Location Aware Working Group (World Wide Web Consortium) whose goal is to work with browser vendors, location providers and location consumers to define a privacy-aware standard for making a user’s geolocation data available through a simple API.
In including geolocation Twitter will face the sensitive topic of privacy. In a post in a blog for twitter developers, Sarver notes: “As part of our Geolocation efforts we will soon be publishing "Geolocation Best Practices" to guide everyone through issues like security and privacy as well as discussing some ideal experiences for users. Topics will include things like storage of location data, what to do with a user’s historical data, how to present the concept of geotagging and more. The guide will create a framework from which we can address the challenges that come about when dealing with something as sensitive as someone’s location while hopefully allowing everyone enough creative freedom to create their own experiences around it.”
In addition, geolocation will be “strictly opt-in”, only the user will decide to add its position to tweets.
With all the rage we know about Twitter these days, this geolocation API will surely develop new use case for the micro-blogging service. From hyper local citizen journalism to friend finder and beyond, there are many innovative ways location can be used. If we also look at Twitter’s own monetization, this could be a way to sell geo-targeted ads, a good thing for a company which is still struggling to find a business model.