Remember Google Latitude? The little Google feature that comes alongside its Maps application which allows you to see the location of your friends and how to get to them by public transportation, walking or bicycling? The app was quickly forgotten under the radar of iOS 5′s Find My Friends, and even though it added a check-in function much to the likes of Facebook Places and Foursquare, it never became quite as popular to do so. So was Google’s solution to quietly add a Leaderboard function over the weekend to give users points for checking into places?
Previously on Latitude, users can check into various places and stream their locations to their Google+ profiles. Leaderboard, which comes with the latest update to the Google Maps app on the Android Market, allots points for each check-in and ranks the weekly tallied points between you and the rest of the Google+ population to see who’s been out and about and who’s a pure couch potato. A check-in at a new location earns the user two points while repeat check-ins get one point. Leaderboard is starting to slowly roll out, and most users are reportedly only seeing it after checking in to a place after their Maps update.
While Leaderboard is a simple idea, it doesn’t seem like it will encourage users to check-in via Latitude more. Firstly, checking in with Latitude does not provide user incentives other than a gamified reason to earn points. Foursquare, Leaderboard’s biggest competitor, offers deals, crowdsourced tips and photos of each place, and a pretty badge system to boot. These badges are such a hit among crowds, even major cities like Chicago added three official city badges to encourage people to explore some of the city’s most famous landmarks, restaurants and attractions.
Secondly, Foursquare works with several daily deals aggregators to let users unlock specials with check-ins and recently partnered with SinglePlatform to provide menus and prices at each venue. To help users discover more places, Foursquare also added a Yelp-like feature that recommends places to try out nearby based on your current location and past check-ins. The application is also available across most major platforms instead of limiting itself to just Android users.
Lastly, does anyone really care how their Latitude check-ins compare globally? It makes more sense to rank within your own social network, but why would anyone want to know how some random guy a couple of states away from them is a lot better at remembering to reveal his location intermittently? We hardly think the ladies will find it all that sexy to boast about how your check-ins ranked in the top ten of all Google+ users. All things being equal, being the mayor of various random places on Foursquare isn’t too hot either, but at least the title sounds slightly cooler.
Google is certainly trying with its efforts to make Latitude and Google+ more relevant, but it may take more than just some points and a ranking board to compete against some of today’s biggest social networks.
Image credit: Engadget