Twitter expands sphere of mobile influence with places

**As published at RCR Wireless News** Twitter Inc. just did the inevitable. Twice. First it launched a geolocation-based service called Places. Then a few hours later, the entire service crashed and stayed down into the late hours of Monday night out on the West Coast. The fourth day of matches at the World Cup was still hours away when the infamous fail whale appeared, so it would be hard to blame the world’s most unifying event for Twitter’s downtime. It’s also worth noting that Apple Inc. could take some of the blame since the impending onslaught of iPhone 4 pre-orders was due to begin any minute (or hour) when the site’s servers overloaded.

Nonetheless, when Twitter is up and running on all cylinders, the new feature could perhaps do more to drive location-based services on mobile than any of its closest competitors and copycats on the venue-based location front. To be sure, Twitter isn’t exactly moving into new turf. Foursquare, Yelp Inc. and Gowalla Inc. already take the task of venue check-ins to a different level with badges, awards and other virtual novelties. The new Places feature on Twitter allows users to share specific details of their location and even dial in their check-ins from Foursquare and Gowalla. Twitter has included a location feature for about a year now that will pin or tag the location of a specific tweet, but until now location didn’t mean anything more than longitudes and latitudes. With a deeper integration with places, businesses and venues will now be linked to all correctly tagged and relevant tweets. In a blog post > announcing the new feature, Twitter mentions sense of place and its importance for every tweet, but particularly highlights the updates that might be of interest to others at the same place or users that are just generally interested in the goings-on there at any time. It was only a matter of time before Twitter revved up its location-based play. Twitter has been expanding its direct control and ownership of many key features and outlets of late. The company recently began offering branded mobile applications for the most popular mobile operating systems a couple months back and just launched its own URL shortener. Now it appears determined to make a move into the places space before it either has to acquire an earlier check-ins pioneer or regain momentum lost to those potential competitors some other way.

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