Why Current Location Based Services Won't Survive

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This was originally posted on f3fundit.com – original article can be found here.

LBS (Location Based Services) are taking off like wildfire, from your foursquares, to gowallas, loopts, to the newly revamped google latitude (well overdue mind you), it seems that LBS is here to stay. After all, now that a large portion of the population owns devices which allow for location based content delivery, this seems natural.

TROUBLE ON THE HORIZON FOR LBS?

Now, not to rain on everyone’s parade, but there is a hefty problem with a number of these new services. They’re static, it’s repeatedly the same experience over and over, and the one of the key traits of most repetitive  is that they quickly get tiresome. Take foursquare, which claims to now have over 6m users of their service. Great, but a quick look at their traffic data show pretty much the same unique visitor data when they hit 3m users back in August of last year. What’s this mean? That give or take, for each new  user they lose they gain one. For a  this young – generating this much hype, this throws up a HUGE red flag from a strategic point of view. Something is wrong!

If you look at other LBS services, you’ll see similar trend graphs if not even worse case scenarios. Gowalla, is hitting the slumpspath.com had a quick hurrah due to their launch coverage, and preliminary data shows that even  sharing site intagr.am + copies are starting to waiver in terms of growth.

So the question I suppose as to why these services really aren’t taking off as well as they could / should be is why?

I honestly believe there are a few reasons, of which the most paramount being that many if not most LBS services are one dimensional. Foursquare is basically Dodgeball for smartphones with a gimmick called the “achievement”, but it doesn’t provide any long term sustainable value to the active user. The “Mayorship” more often than not requires active track-able engagement, for a minimum reward.

What about instagr.am? It’s social photo sharing with a few filters, but what about when the gimmick of those filters goes? What will be the  then? It’s nifty, sure, but is it sustainable? Without sounding like the harbinger of doom and gloom I reckon it’s not.

Another problem with these LBS offerings is that in a large part they’re based on games, don’t get me wrong, I love games, they can be used as multifaceted business applications, but the fundamental problem with designing a  around a game it that it’s limited by the games rule set.

SUSTAINABILITY OF A LBS DEPENDS ON IT’S NEED INTEGRATION

You see the key here is providing the user with a multi-dimensional product, one that evolves with the user, where the purpose it servers is varied, it can’t be something that’s on rails, but open where the users fashion  their own rule set instead of one being provided for them. The current set of LBS products just don’t possess that openness, and don’t fulfill societal needs that would make these products resonant. In fact about the best example of someone doing this right albeit in a rudimentary way would be twitter. In short, these  need to innovate or die, whether they do is up to them. But me personally, I believe that something big is in the works for LBS.

if you like this article, be sure to follow me on twitter @jgrebski

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