8 Cool Location-Based Social Networks

Location-based social networking is getting ready to take off. As smartphones proliferate throughout the population, getting offline becomes more difficult. So why not take advantage of being online all the time to see where your friends are?

Location-based social networking allows members of the communities to share their location through GPS, mobile email or text. You can add comments about a restaurant, let friends know you're going to a show downtown or just find out if anyone you know happens to be nearby and wants to meet up for a cup of coffee. RIM's BlackBerry already supports some of these networks and the pending release of the 3G iPhone will only raise its profile.


BrightKite is a location-based social network that acts a lot like Twitter. In fact, you can add your friends to the network by entering your handle when you register for the service. Featuring a Facebook-like friend feed, users can upload pictures and comments about where they are and what's going on. Log-in, check in and let your friends know what you're doing.

Citysense is a location-based social network of a different breed. Rather than interacting through the network through a Web portal, Citysense lives as a mobile application on your smart phone. Currently, only BlackBerry users can take advantage of the service, but an iPhone application isn't far behind. Rather having a friend feed, Citysense populates a map of where people are transmitting a cell phone signal from. You can see where your friends, called tribes, are congregating and instantly get information about what's happening at a local hot spot.

GyPSii is a location-based network that allows users to upload photos, videos and other information about what they're up to and then geo locate it. Geo location is when a user, for example, takes a photo of an ice cream stand, uploads the photo to GyPSii's service and then adds the GPS location to it. Once everything is tagged and loaded, GyPSii pushes the image out to other users with a location on an online map that lets friends see where you are and how to find the spot you took the picture.

MobiLuck believes that location is the heart of your network -- online or off. The European location-based social network is similar to others. Users can locate and update friends with information about what they are up to and where they happen to be. MobiLuck also allows Symbian and Windows mobile smart phone users to chat with their MSN contacts and will soon have capabilities to support Yahoo, Gchat, AOL and Skype message services as well.

Loopt recently teamed up with Verizon Wireless to enhance its location-based networking capabilities. Loopt's community is built on three basic principles. Connect, Share, and Explore. Connecting with people is easy on Loopt, because it turns your mobile phone into a compass. Installing the application allows a map on your phone to be populated with your friend's locations and spots they've visited. Users can leave comments on different locations and suggestions. Sharing is easy with a built-in support for instant messaging services, keeping friends close all the time. Users are encouraged to use Explore by checking out friend's reviews. Thinking about going to a restaurant? See what your friends had to say about it.

Plazes thinks it's most important to tie location-based communities to locations. After joining Plazes, users are encouraged to fill out a calendar with things you're planning on doing and mapping it to the place where it's going to happen. Once that's done, you can spread the word by clicking the "Spread It" button, which will send the activity to all your friends on the service and to the email addresses of friends not on Plazes. The service recently added SMS capabilities to the service that allow users to add Plazes on the go. Currently, Plazes is supported on BlackBerry phones and an iPhone application is coming soon.

Whrrl is similar to another online community, Yelp. Both services offer reviews of restaurants, bars, stores, etc. that are written by the people that actually go to the place and get great service or a cheap deal on new shoes. Whrrl ups the ante, however, by mapping everything onto Google Maps. Enter your location and a map will auto populate will local restaurants. Click on one that looks interesting and you'll get the distance from your current location and all the details about the establishment: when it opens, if it serves brunch, the type of payment options. And that's just the basics. Upload photos, write reviews, see what your friends think of the places in your neighborhood to really take advantage of Whrrl.

iPling is a relatively new location-based social network developed exclusively for the iPhone. Launched in January of 2008, iPling is currently in private beta. Although, with the release of the new iPhone coming quickly it wouldn't be surprising if iPling flung the doors to the community open once the phone is on the market. Creating an iPling profile consists of, essentially, tagging yourself. When you add your interests to the community, iPling searches their network for people nearby who share your interests. Users have the option of looking for others with open profiles or restricting access to only friends.