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Twitter Geolocation Service Due For Launch

By August 27, 2009July 30th, 20232 Comments

So far it has been difficult to assess the geographic location from which a tweet originates, due to the unavailability of sophisticated apps required for the purpose. Twitter will soon launch a new feature to make this process simple.

Even at present, various platform developers have been making some advances in this matter, with the help of the very basic APIs available to them. The currently available geolocation based projects are made with the use of the location details filled in by users on their profiles. However, this is not a very reliable and effective way to judge immediate location as users often tweet from multiple locations without updating their location each time.

Twitter will allow users to add in their latitude and longitude if they wish to do so with each tweet. The service will be strictly opt-in, with the default set to ‘off’.

Tweet-level geotagging will be treated differently than the location data entered manually by the user in their profile. Location data in the profile will continue to be used to give a general idea to visitors about where a user is normally based.

Udates to the API will be made available a couple of weeks before launch, to allow third-party app developers to incorporate this new feature. Documentation for the geolocation function in the API is already available.

Location data will be passed in the following format (code):
curl -d “lat=37.780467&long=-122.396762&status=I have arrived” -u user:pass

The W3C geolocation API will be used on for the launch of the mobile service.

Users who decide to disclose their location will have to opt in on the Twitter website itself, and the location data won’t be stored indefinitely. Third-party applications will not be given the ability to enable / disable the feature via the API in order to avoid rogue apps turning on the feature without a user’s consent.

Twitter co-founder, Biz Stone, says, “if people do opt-in to sharing location on a tweet by tweet basis, compelling context will be added to each burst of information.”

Placing this choice squarely in the hands of the user is a smart move to avoid the usual problems regarding user privacy and security.

The geolocation service will enable users to follow tweets sent out by people from their neighbourhood or city in addition to tweets from the users they normally follow. This facility would be especially useful, when information needs to be spread urgently, such as in times of crises.

Search results will most likely also reflect location awareness in the near future, once more users opt in to use this feature. This could make Twitter even more useful and much more relevant than Google for real time, on-the-spot searches.

No official date has yet been announced for the launch of this service, though, given the amount of information and developer support available indicates that it should be just a matter of weeks.