Google's Latitude platform was a relatively early entrant into the current wave of location-aware apps--but until this point, it's steered clear of the "check-in" language that trendy start-ups like Foursquare have popularized. No more: Latitude's iPhone app, in an update announced today, finally allows users to check into specific places and share their location with their friends.
It joins a similar feature for the Latitude Android app, announced last week right before the notorious check-in playground of the South by Southwest Interactive Festival (SXSW) in Austin, Texas, at which Google also announced a promotion with multiple local merchants to let users earn deals by gaining status as "Regulars," "VIPs," and "Gurus" much in the league of Foursquare's "mayors."
But Google's not just taking aim at Foursquare here. Bringing location-sensing deals into the mix is without a doubt a move inspired by the rise of deal-brokering sites like Groupon and LivingSocial. Google also simultaneously launched new multi-language editions of Google Places, its business directory app fueled by a recommendations technology called Hotpot, and now allows users to bookmark different places within the app--something that seems much in the league of not only Foursquare but also Yelp, the business search and reviews site that Google tried to buy last year (but was snubbed).
Then there's Facebook Places, the location-sharing service launched by the social network last summer, which shows many promising tie-ins with Facebook's armada of local business "fan pages" and which has gradually also become the test bed for Groupon-like deals.
Google, of course, got into "check-ins" really before anybody did--it purchased Dodgeball, a text-message check-in service, way back in 2005. After Google shuttered the product, Dodgeball's original founder went on to build Foursquare.