Archive for the ‘Location’ Category

File Under: Location, Social

‘Places’ Turns Facebook Into a Location Sharing Powerhouse

Facebook has jumped on the location check-in bandwagon with a new feature known as Places. Facebook Places has launched with four partners, all services that already offer check-in services — Foursquare, Gowalla, Yelp and Booyah.

If you use Foursquare, Brightkite or other location check-in services there isn’t much to see in Facebook Places. The only real difference is the scale that Facebook brings to the table.

Places is already available to most in the U.S. in their desktop browsers on Thursday. To use Places on your mobile, you’ll either need to download the new Facebook iPhone app (version 3.2, which is available now), or you can head to the Facebook mobile site with a web browser that supports the Geolocation API (basically anything but IE).

To read full coverage of the Places launch announcement on Wednesday night, read Ryan Singel’s report on Wired’s Epicenter blog.

While Facebook isn’t doing much with location that hasn’t already been done at least half a dozen other services, it does of course bring location sharing to Facebook’s massive user base of 500 million people around the world. Eventually, all of them will get access to Places once it rolls out in other countries. In the past that user base hasn’t been very welcoming of new features, especially features that involve privacy changes. While Places will be activated for all accounts, by default your location won’t be broadcast to everyone — just your friends.

To use the new feature, you can actively check in to a location, or you can let your friends check you in to a location without doing anything. While this may ruffle your feathers, if you don’t want people knowing where you are, it’s pretty simple to disable your friends’ ability to check you in, and to just ignore the check-in button.

According to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Places has three goals: helping people share where they are, seeing which of your friends are close by, and seeing what other places of interest are near you.

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File Under: Location, Web Apps

Microsoft Adds OpenStreetMap Layer to Bing Maps

You can now turn on a special layer in Bing Maps that displays maps from OpenStreetMap, Microsoft has announced.

OpenStreetMap is an open source mapping project that keeps an editable map of the entire globe. Anyone can make edits to the map — it’s been nicknamed the “Wikipedia of maps.” The open source model has proven especially effective in regions of the developing world where very little solid map data exists, and in areas where highly detailed, editable maps are critical for natural-disaster response efforts, like the recent Haiti earthquake.

Microsoft’s adoption of the open source mapping project follows a similar move by MapQuest, which began adding OSM layers last month.

To run layers in Bing Maps, you’ll need the latest version of Microsoft Silverlight and a supported browser. It doesn’t work properly in Google Chrome (at least on the Mac), but IE8, Firefox and Safari had no problems. If you’re using the Ajax controls to view Bing Maps (instead of Silverlight), then you won’t be able to see the OpenStreetMaps layer, but Microsoft says this is something that may make its way into the non-Silverlight version eventually.

Use the map view switcher at the bottom to change layers.

To add OpenStreetMaps to your Bing, go to the App Gallery. Look for the new OpenStreetMaps app in the gallery. Click on it, and your alternative OpenStreetMaps view should launch within Bing Maps.

You can switch back to any of the other standard views in Bing Maps by clicking on the layer control at the bottom of the map window. You’ll notice Bing Maps is using the Mapnik build of OpenStreetMaps for its map layer. You can switch back and forth between the OSM layer and any of the other standard Bing maps layers using the same control.

Microsoft has been quickly adding some innovative features to Bing, especially on its Maps website. In June, Bing Maps added the ability to browse parts of the world in 3-D, and in February it demonstrated indoor panorama views and location-specific videos that are accessible within Bing’s street-side imagery.

Microsoft also ran its King of Bing maps challenge for developers last month, asking them to create innovative apps for the mapping platform. For the contest, a developer named Ricky Brundritt built an app for Bing Maps that estimates your taxi fare within most major U.S. cities.

However, Bing’s reliance on Microsoft’s proprietary Silverlight technology to power these innovations is seen by some as an alienating factor — and an unnecessary one at that, since other mapping platforms like Google Maps accomplish much of the same functionality using JavaScript and other web standards. This is especially important on mobile devices, where the most popular browsers don’t allow for plug-ins like SIlverlight.

Still, it’s heartening to see Bing adding to the momentum OpenStreetMaps is currently enjoying. Anyone can edit the OSM maps, and now that the project is getting some attention — thanks mostly to its efforts in Haiti — edits are coming in more quickly.

According to the latest stats, the project has over a quarter of a million participants and over 1.8 billion uploaded GPS points. Dedicated users are getting creative and finding ways to add even more detail to the existing maps by doing offbeat things like tagging wheelchair ramps, mailboxes and trees in their neighborhoods.

Taxi Fare Calculator link courtesy Mashable

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File Under: Location, Web Services

MapQuest U.K Teams Up With OpenStreetMap

The grandaddy of online mapping sites is turning to an open source library for its cartography data.

Mapquest, which is owned by AOL, launched a new beta site Friday that uses data from OpenStreetMap. So far, the OpenStreetMap data is only available on MapQuest for the United Kingdom and some of continental Europe, but MapQuest says it will broaden the scope of this experiment in the future.

Just to show it’s not messing around, the company has also established a $1 million fund “to support the growth of open-source mapping in the United States.” So, we can expect MapQuest to start hosting U.S. maps from OpenStreetMap at some point.

OpenStreetMap is like a Wikipedia for maps. It’s a fully open source and crowdsourced project. All of the geodata in the OSM system is gathered and entered by volunteers, and all of it is freely available for all to use. Furthermore, if you find an inaccuracy in a map anywhere in the world, you can actually go in and fix it. Here’s what a year’s worth of OSM edits looks like.

There’s a wiki with more information if you want to get involved. We’ve written extensively about the project before — check out some of the links at the bottom of this article.

MapQuest is using OSM for tile images and all cartographic data. It is then applying its own user interface and routing algorithms on top of OpenStreetMaps’ maps.

Here’s what MapQuest’s Antony Pegg has to say about the project on the MapQuest developer blog:

The goal was to create a MapQuest experience for the United Kingdom using only OpenStreetMap data. As much as possible we tried to use the open source software used by the OSM community, so anything we did to these tools could be contributed back. We picked the UK first because we felt we had the best shot of getting use-able routes from the data without having to worry about a language barrier at the same time.

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File Under: Location

Bing Maps Gets a Developer SDK

Microsoft may be a few lengths back in the race to win the online mapping prize, but you can never count Redmond out. The company released an SDK for Bing Maps on Monday, allowing developers to create their own Map Apps for submission into Bing Map Apps gallery (Silverlight is required for that link).

When Microsoft first launched the Bing Map Apps gallery (say that three times fast) a few months ago, it featured interesting geodata mashups from partners like Foursquare, Twitter, and These maps provide one or more data layers over whatever map you’re currently looking at, so you can see things like restaurant reviews, geo-tagged tweets, weather camera images and temperature readings or traffic cams. My favorite is the Urban Graffiti tracker from which pinpoints places where you can see some cool street art.

Now, anyone can make one of these apps. With the new SDK, developers can create their own geodata overlays using any data set they can get their hands on, then submit their creations to the Map Apps gallery. Microsoft will feature the best submissions and present them to everyone using the Bing search tool. The company says it will also allow advertising in the Map Apps and split the revenue with the creators. There’s a testing tool included in the launch.

The goal of Monday’s release appears to be two-fold: increase interest in Bing Maps, and speed adoption of Silverlight 4, the latest version of Microsoft’s rich media and streaming video platform, and it’s alternative to Adobe Flash.

Everything built with this SDK needs to be done in Silverlight 4. You’ll also need the Silverlight plug-in to view any of Bing’s mapping features — at least version 3 is required for the website.

It’s a bit of a shame that Microsoft has so deeply baked Silverlight into the Bing maps experience while others — most notably, Google and OpenStreetMap — have managed to create rich, interactive maps using HTML, JavaScript and CSS. But one can’t blame Microsoft for trying to popularize Silverlight at a time when the web is starting to move away from Flash as the de facto standard for presenting rich content in the browser. Even though most of the momentum is going into HTML5, CSS 3 and other open standards, Silverlight stands a chance to win some ground.

Silverlight is currently installed on around 60-65 percent of internet-enabled PCs. Around half of Silverlight’s users are running version 3, with around seven percent running version 4, according to

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File Under: Events, Location

Facebook Tags Everyone at F8 with RFID Chips


Meet your friendly Facebook RFID tag.

Here at Facebook’s F8 developer’s conference, each attendee has a small plastic token attached to their badge. Inside the token is an RFID chip. On the back, there’s a ten-character unique ID code. We’ve all been instructed to go to and enter our personal code to activate it.

Once your token number is linked to your Facebook account, you can walk around to each of several readers set up around the venue here. There’s an RFID chip inside this little blue piece of plastic, and at each reader, that chip gets scanned and some sort of post goes up on your Facebook profile’s Wall.

There’s a photo booth — scan your chip and it snaps a photo of you and uploads it to your account. There are gaming lounges, and you can become a fan of whatever company or game is sponsoring that lounge by tapping your chip against the reader.

It’s possible there’s some tie-in to a larger presence-sharing announcement coming later on at the conference. Or, it could just be something born from a keg-fueled discussion by some engineers, as the Presence site on Facebook says.

Either way, as soon as it was explained to me what this little blue dongle was doing hanging off of my badge, my first thought was, “It begins…”