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Jul 16, 2008

Facebook, MySpace Ignore Location On iPhone At Their Peril

Facebook, MySpace Ignore Location On iPhone At Their Peril

Facebook and MySpace, the two largest social networks, eagerly launched new iPhone applications last Friday. Both quickly shot up the top apps list. Apple has since turned off the download count feature, but Facebook is no. 7 on the free list, MySpace is no. 11. But while both applications are useful for heavy users, they won’t drive new users to the services because they failed to leverage the killer iPhone feature - location awareness.

The applications are pretty good mobile versions of the standard experience. MySpace, which we reviewed last week, provides users with most key features of the service, and they’ve added some nice touches like the ability to upload photos from the iPhone camera. You can download the application here (and add me as a friend).

Facebook’s iPhone app is clearly better. They had a bit of a head start with their web app last year that was at the time the finest example of an iPhone-specific website. The new iPhone app was created by the same guy - Joe Hewitt - and includes deeper integration with the phone. Tap on a friend’s name and call them. Or use the included Facebook chat application and skip those text messages. One big problem with Facebook on the iPhone - it takes forever to load and the application crawls, just like the web version.

Location? Hello?

But both MySpace and Facebook miss the real opportunity to drive usage growth on the iPhone - location awareness. The reason? Privacy concerns. The lost opportunity? Huge potential user growth and connections.

Social networks today rely on friends of friends or real world connections to drive growth. But a handful of iPhone-only social networks actually help drive new connections in the real world. And the backbone of those applications is location awareness.

I’ve written about this opportunity repeatedly in the last year. In February I speculated on the demand for aniPhone-only social network to drive real world social interactions: “I think an iPhone-only social network…would be a huge hit…if it had presence awareness and was able to tell you both where your friends are and what they are up to. And also let you meet new people around you who were open to it.”..

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