Google, it’s not too late to save Latitude

October 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

This week Apple announced a feature available in iOS 5 that you won’t find on their iPhone site:Find My Friends

It’s Google’s Latitude designed for normal people.

It’s pretty clear Apple’s making a play for platform lock-in with built-in apps such as FMF and iMessage. It’s all functionality you can get elsewhere, but nothing will be as elegant as Apple’s integrated versions. 

What’s Google to do?

Well, they haven’t lost yet, but they sure are trying. People love Gmail. And they love Google Calendar. But they don’t love Latitude. But they could. And they could love them all together.

Here, for your benefit, are some ideas I wish I’d committed to writing months ago.

  • Tie Calendar to Latitude by allowing meeting organizers to request Latitude access for 1 hour prior to the appointment and throughout it.
    • Positioning Latitude as a vague expansion of the social web hasn’t worked. Position it instead as a tool that bridges maps and scheduling — the 2 key features that distinguish a smartphone from what we had before we had smartphones. Latitude should be about sharing location when it matters with who it matters to.
    • Request Latitude access by default from meeting invitees. Apple’s going to make location sharing mainstream anyway: now is not the time to be shy. Get Latitude installed on every smartphone in every pocket as fast as possible.
      • I trained my mom to book family get-togethers in Google Calendar years ago: I just gave her access to my Latitude location and she loves it. No more calling to ask where we are or if we got home safe. If she could install it on her work-issued nannified BB, she would so she could share her location with my stepdad.
    • Create a dashboard for the meeting organizer to see everybody’s ETA. 
      • Green: accepted the meeting and ETA has them on-time.
      • Yellow: accepted the meeting and ETA has them arriving late.
      • Red: ETA has them missing the event entirely, or they’ve declined.
      • And every invitee’s name has a clock next to it: this is when they turn invisible again.
  • Kill Google Talk (yes, it’s still hanging on, and you never visit anymore) and replace it with the Messenger component of Google+. Better yet, with GTalk dead, merge Messenger and Hangouts to create a Skype-killing masterpiece of group communication.
    • Enable chatting parties to view one another’s locations. 
    • Make it so that I can enable location-sharing-while-chatting with only the Circles I choose. This way I can freely enter a hangout without risk of unintended location exposure.
    • Oddly enough, on Android phones it seems that engaging someone on Google Talk tends to refresh their position on Latitude. So it would seem that someone in Google is already thinking about this. Please push on and be bold.
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