After months of private beta testing in Portland, location-based social network Shizzow has launched in the tech-friendly Bay Area. Now the coffee-shop working laptoperati can easily let their friends know whose WiFi they’re soaking up today. Like the location granddaddy Dodgeball, Shizzow is focused on connecting people in real life.
To “shout” from a place, you first search for it by name. Shizzow does not let users broadcast an address or city as a location, in contrast to other services, like BrightKite. Your dashboard shows recent shouts from your friends — the users you’ve chosen to “listen” to, a feature similar to following on Twitter.
Privacy on Shizzow is an on/off setting. If in private mode, you must manually accept any listeners. There is only a single level of granularity. BrightKite has trusted friends who get your exact location. Normal friends may only have access to your city, which makes for some useless messages. Shizzow suggests that you only shout when you want someone to know where you are.
One cool feature unique to Shizzow is the ability to edit a listing, or add a new one to the database. While much of the site is built off of local APIs, Shizzow stores a local copy that can be edited Wiki-style by the community. It also means users can creatively name their homes, offices and other locations.
In addition to BrightKite, other Shizzow competitors include Plazes, Loopt and Whrrl. Each service lets you declare your location and see where your friends are. Yahoo’s Fire Eagle, a central platform for storing and sharing location, is also similar. Fire Eagle does not have any social features. Instead, it is more likely to be built upon by Shizzow and similar services. Shizzow does not yet support Fire Eagle, while BrightKite does.
Some will no doubt see Shizzow’s limited feature set as a liability. For example, BrightKite has a beautiful iPhone app, while Shizzow has no plans to create one. The Shizzow team, made up of four Portlanders with full-time jobs, see their focus on core features as a strength. They’re hard at work on an API now, and apparently counting on you to create their iPhone app and additional features.
That’s not to say Shizzow isn’t adding new stuff. It recently incorporated Geode to guess at a user’s location, unleashed SMS shouting and pays close attention to its Get Satisfaction community, implementing many ideas suggested by its users.
If you live in Portland or the Bay Area, let Shizzow know on its invite request form. Then let Webmonkey know how it works for you. All other cities will have to be patient: A public beta is scheduled for March 2009.