I'm at the Where 2.0 conference, looking forward to the Launchpad session tonight where I hope to see several cool new geo companies. Ahead of that I had a chance to meet with some other firms building new geo services: Plazes and Praized.
Plazes: Location reporting
Plazes has been around for a while. It's a service that helps you report your location so your friends and followers can see it. The latest updates revolve around new input and output methods for the service, according to Plazes' co-founder, Felix Petersen. On the input side, an iPhone app is coming (when the new iPhone app store goes public in a few weeks). It will let you update your location just by pressing a "locate me" button on your phone. This method will join the PC, Mac, and Linux software app that locates you based on the unique fingerprint of the Wi-Fi access point you're connected to (if you're not connected to an access point, you have to locate yourself manually, by entering a place name or address).
Plazes is for recording your location intentionally and episodically. It's not like Whrrl (story), which is designed to track you passively. The idea is that when you land at a location you want people to know about, or get set up at a location where you want people to find you, you click the big "locate me" button on whatever device you have handy, and then your location goes out to the people you want to see it.
Who sees it? That's part 2 of the changes in Plazes. Right now, your location is updated on Plazes.com and in your widget, if you've embedded one on your site. In a few weeks, Plazes will also update Twitter when you want, as well as sending your data to Fire Eagle, and to Plazes' own API, which other apps can use to grab your location from.
Praized: Local reviews
After talking with Plazes' Petersen, I caught up with Sylvain Carle, co-founder of a brand-new geo company, Praized. This firm is building a database of locations and a rating system for them. It's designed so that Wordpress and Movable Type site managers can plug the system into their blog, giving their reader communities a Digg-like rating system for the locations mentioned on the site.
While the Praized database content is hosted, Praized itself is not a destination site. Web managers put some code in their blogs, and the Praized content will then appear locally on the site and adopt the site's native styles. Furthermore, the ratings that people leave for locations and businesses will be specific to the site where Praized is installed. So if the users on a ballet blog leave reviews for a restaurant near a concert hall mentioned in a post, those reviews and ratings won't get mixed in with reviews for the same restaurant left by readers of a site for wrestling fans. Good thing.
See also: Yelp (location ratings, but not private).
Both Plazes and Praized are based on leveraging their own proprietary databases. Plazes is collecting the data of Wi-Fi access point locations (based on coordinating MAC addresses with user reports of location) as well as matching location coordinates with the places that users hang out at (for example, the Starbucks at SFO). Praized's database is one of physical location and associated reviews. Both look like useful infrastructure plays for emerging online geo businesses, but it's unlikely either will (or should) remain an independent company for very long.