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Google Latitude, which started out about 2 years ago, lets users inform their friends and family about there geographic location. They have now gone a step further with the introduction of Place Checkins.

So far, when a user was in a particular city or town, that location was automatically visible to contacts as a dot on a map. But now, with the use of Google Maps 5.1 for Android, users can actually specify their exact location, when they are in a restaurant, theatre or any other place of interest.

Of course, users retain the right to decide whether or not to share their location. Users can choose to keep their location confidential, share it with friends or even make it public.

To remind the user to use this facility, Google Maps will show a notification to check in, whenever the user enters a place of interest. The user can also opt for an automatic check in facility for certain selected places. When a person checks in at a given location frequently, that person is given a designation such as ‘regular’, ‘VIP’ or ‘Guru’, depending on the frequency of visits, which is similar to Foursquare’s system of awarding “mayorship”.

Latitude also automatically checks users out of the location once they leave the place, which is not something Foursquare does. The check in facility also provides turn-by-turn directions to the place through the Google Maps Navigation and allows users to leave reviews about the place. Google will shortly add a feature that will provide a complete history of the check-ins through an optional History tab.

Considering that latitude is used by 10 million people every month, this new feature should gain popularity very soon.

This new check-in feature is very similar to what other sites such as Gowalla, Foursquare, Loopt, Facebook Places, Scvngr and Whrrl provide. However, the additional features of notifications and automatic checkout should help Google get more users. The competitor websites will have to be on their toes if they wish to survive against Google’s onslaught.