Mobile Social Networking: Don’t Rule Out Google

Following the previous post about Facebook’s potential to be a category killer in the quickly budding mobile LBS market, could Google do the same?

Like Facebook, the question comes down to Google’s sheer scale and installed base. It hasn’t done much with Latitude — the closest comparison to the new crop of mobile location-based services like Foursquare, Brightkite, Loopt, etc.

But a new angle has emerged when looking at its latest launch: Buzz. Many have written off Buzz as Google’s latest leap into the social media pool, which in the past has resulted in flops such as Orkut. This was made worse by what many believe to be a false start and unnatural fusion with Gmail.

But the place where Buzz seems to have some potential is in mobile — something we and others began to point out after it launched. The idea is that Buzz updates from friends or even non-friends are appended with automatic (though opt-in) location tags.

TechCrunch expands on the topic in a well-argued piece from MG Siegler (perhaps the world’s foremost Foursquare evangelist). Google’s installed base of Gmail users and a local listings database seem to constitute the intersection where Buzz could really shine.

That’s another key to why Buzz (and check-in services as a whole) works as a location service: with it, Google finally understands that people don’t want to let others know their GPS coordinates. That means nothing to most people. Instead, Buzz lets you select an actual place (like a restaurant, for example), and send that out with your message.

People understand the concept of places, not coordinates. And Google, thanks to its Search and Maps businesses, happens to have databases of more places than probably any other company out there. With Buzz, they’re finally using it.

Read the rest of the post here.

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