Startup Has A Different Way Of Looking At Location Discreetly

As soon as an online vertical gains traction in the market, someone comes along with a variation that demonstrates another way of looking at things. And so it is with location-based services. I recently talked about Foursquare, Gowalla, Brightkite, and some of the others in this market, all of which essentially reward users for “checking in” at various locations and telling their friends.

Now a new player, face2face, is in the game with a variation on the theme. face2face is app, developed by startup Proximate Global, Inc, that serves as a “location-aware smartphone app that solves the problems of privacy and safety.” It lets friends know “discreetly” when you are nearby. Instead of encouraging widespread sharing of information about where you are, face2face filters information and only notifies a user when a known contact is nearby rather than providing the contact’s precise location.

Face2face does a few other things differently from most location-based services. It is not based on play, so there are no points or medals. It has privacy settings so a user can decide if they want to be invisible to others.

Hameed Khan, Founder and CEO of Proximate Global, Inc., says it “is more of a platform than it is a particular service,” so it works alongside Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace and Twitter, instead of replacing them with a new social network. In fact, the company calls face2face “a way to consolidate and manage your networks from a single application.”

Khan tells MIT Technology Review that “users need a good reason to share their location information” and they should be able to control who sees it. Khan thinks face2face can help make ads even more relevant. In the future, face2face “may offer coupons to a coffee shop where a friend is already sitting,” rather than simply distribute coupons to nearby coffee shops.

On its website, face2face is described as using “general proximity – never precise location… We make coincidences happen, finding the connections you’d otherwise miss, without sacrificing privacy.”

Look at how face2face positions itself against other location-based services:

“Most location services are often too open, too quick to share information, and the more you use them, the worse it gets. By using proximity instead of precise location, by withholding information from people unwilling to share their own, face2face protects you while it connects you. It’s the first step toward our broader vision of a private, yet socially active lifestyle.”

Proximate Global Inc. says it has designed face2face for “global scalability” since 70 percent of smartphone users live outside the United States. That may be one more way the company will differentiate this new application from its competition.

Who knows if this is what potential users really want from location-based services. But face2face has picked up on concerns about privacy, and it will be interesting to see if this resonates with potential users. Also, face2face seems to be approaching the market a little more seriously – demonstrating that there are implications to telling everyone and anyone where you are at any given moment.

About Barry Silverstein

Barry Silverstein is a freelance writer/marketing consultant. In addition to writing for ReveNews, he is a contributing writer to Brandchannel.com, the world’s leading online branding forum. He is the author of three marketing books, The Breakaway Brand (co-author, McGraw-Hill, 2005), Business-to-Business Internet Marketing (Maximum Press, 2003) and Internet Marketing for Technology Companies (Maximum Press, 2003). Barry ran his own Internet and direct marketing agency for twenty years. You can find Barry on Twitter @bdsilv.

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