The difference seems minute, but letting users check in at a “real place” is an important part of Google’s overall strategy.
As Google Latitude engineer Joe LaPenna blogs, “Until today, sharing my location let friends and family know if I was across the globe or in their neighborhood. Now, check-ins let them see the cool restaurant I’m trying in Taipei or join me for a latte at the cafe nearby.”
And real locations mean real advertising opportunities. After all, knowing your intersection or latitude and longitude isn’t nearly as much an opportunity for behavioral targeting as knowing that you’re at a coin-op carwash or that you frequently eat at Indian restaurants.
Here’s the app in action on an Android phone:
Latitude is adding a few key components to its checkin offering, too. Users can choose to get a mobile notification to check in when they arrive at a location. They can also choose to let the app automatically check them in at designated spots. Checkouts — a rather new concept in the location game — are also automated.
Here’s a demo of how checkins will work:
Although it’s likely that the extra, automated features were worth the wait, we wonder how much ground Google has lost to companies like Facebook (its Places product is taking off) and Fousquare, both of which already have compelling checkin apps on the market and strong user bases.