Twitter has announced a new feature that will give users the ability to send their location with each tweet.
The new geotagging API tools are available only through the Twitter API, and are not part of Twitter.com just yet. So, if you’d like to post geodata with your tweets, you’ll need to use a third-party application that supports the new features. Expect updates to the most forward-looking clients soon.
The geodata tools are also opt-in, meaning that you’ll have to head to your account settings and check “enable geotagging” before any application is allowed to send geodata with your tweets. If broadcasting your location strikes you as an invitation to an Orwellian nightmare, just ignore the new settings.
Judging by the way Twitter has set up the API, the geotagging tools are intended mainly for mobile applications running on platforms like the iPhone or Android, both of which have GPS or similar sensors for detecting location and can offer geodata to applications. Approve the Twitter app of your choice to access your location and it can then send the geotags along to Twitter.
In addition to the obvious — the ability to search for nearby tweets — the added geo information opens up a whole new realm of Twitter mashups — travel guides, local music searches and most likely quite a few things no one has thought of yet.
It also serves as both a boon and a challenge to the various location-based games and services that have sprung up along Twitter’s coral reef. Services like Foursquare, Loopt and Gowalla, which exist as separate apps, but incorporate Twitter for passing status messages, will have the ability to geotag those status messages. Likewise, you could run a simple Twitter search for messages geotagged with the location of the restaurant you’re currently sitting in and get recommendations from other Twitter users about which menu items to try.
Of course given the opt-in nature of geotags (a good decision on Twitter’s part), searches looking at only geotagged tweets will likely be a minority sampling of what’s actually happening on Twitter.
Developers interested in using the new API in applications and mashups should check out the new documentation.