Most notably, its findings are based off telephone interview responses to a single question: “Please tell me if you ever use the Internet to do any of the following things. Do you ever use the Internet to…use a service such as Foursquare or Gowalla that allows you to share your location with friends and to find others who are near you? (If Yes, ask:) Did you happen to do this yesterday, or not?”
Also up for consideration is the fact that responses were fielded between August 9 and September 13 of this year, around the same time Facebook started rolling out Places; Facebook Places is absent from the question.
While we agree with the primary takeaway of the study — location-sharing is far from mainstream — Pew’s numbers don’t tell the real story. In fact, Pew’s results show a 1% backslide from May 2010 in adult internet users who share their location, but that’s not an accurate representation of what’s happening.
Rather, we’re seeing hockey stick growth for services such as Foursquare and SCVNGR. Foursquare recently hitfour million users and SCVNGR is shooting for one million by year’s end. On Wednesday, for instance, 4,511 San Francisco Giants fans checked in to the team’s parade — that’s more than four times needed to unlock the newly introduced Epic Swarm badge (added because 250 person Super Swarms were becoming commonplace). On the same day, Facebook announced the Deals Platform with a slew of big brands ready to ante up freebies to patrons who check in to the service.
Is there any doubt that both Facebook and Foursquare will help acclimate an ever increasing amount of mobile users to the notion of location-sharing?
Really, all the Pew study shows is that 96% of its surveyed telephone respondent pool are not using Foursquare or Gowalla — that’s not saying much. Instead, that 96% should be seen as a huge pool of opportunity for all the applications and services out there. There are no winner or losers yet, just one giant blue ocean.
Lest we get caught up in the already overhyped speculation that Facebook will destroy Foursquare, or any other single service for that matter, the study is a not so subtle reminder that it’s still absurd and way too early to make any dramatic conclusions