Why 2.5? Part 3 will address some specific business models. But before the “HOW” I would like to address some factors and analyze the “WHY” there is a case for LBSN.

We are witnessing a new evolution in the online world. The “WHO are you” and “WHAT are you doing” is rapidly evolving to “Who are you” “What are you doing” “WHEN are you doing” and “WHERE are you”. We can fairly say that the WWW became the WWWW

The When and Where pose many questions, most of them associated with privacy. For example:

1- How is the location captured: Automatic by the system, Others on demand, You on demand
2- What type of location notification: Descriptive text (i.e. “At gym”, “at Starbucks”), area in a map, zip code, exact address, a point in a map
3- How is the sharing: Reciprocal, one way, only on authorization
4- Location History: Movement patterns, Tracking, Monitoring
5- Location Ownership: Resale and/or disclose of the information

But the same concerns for privacy were raised before we published our family photos and videos to the world. The fact is that the accessibility of technology creates communities and services. The simplification of web page building facilitated the rise of communities like FaceBook, MySpace, LinkedIN and others. The commoditization and accessibility to digital cameras, camcorders, and webcams has paved the way to communities like YouTube and Flicker or services like SnapFish. GPS devices became a commodity, and soon GPS in a cellular phone will be as common as a camera. As a matter of fact, you can get your position without a GPS (see Google maps) and Location Based Services can simply be added as a feature to mass social networks like Facebook. Location Based Social Networking is not a question of IF, it’s a question of WHEN and the when is NOW.

A social network service focuses on building online communities of people who share interests and activities, or who are interested in exploring the interests and activities of others. Most social network services are web based and provide a variety of ways for users to interact, such as e-mail and instant messaging services”. [1]

The key of the social networks is interaction, and mobile interaction = money. Who is going to pay the bill?

Virtual meet Mobile: Interaction in the virtual world is free. On the other hand, interaction in the mobile world is expensive. On the virtual world all messaging services are free (MSN/AOL/ICQ/Yahoo messenger) but in the mobile world you pay for every single SMS. On the virtual world email is free (Gmail/Hotmail/etc…) in the mobile world your BlackBerry pushed email comes at extra charge. Even voice services are free in the virtual world (Skype/Jaxtr) but that’s far from reality in the mobile world.

In my next article I’ll address some business models and we’ll see that everyone in the value chain has something to gain: wireless carriers, handset manufacturers, application developers, maps providers, etc. The ultimate question is “What is the real value for the end user?” I doubt you can base your business model on the hope the Facebook / MySpace “exhibitionistic” generation is ready to buy “stalk/being stalked” as a main added value.

As I mentioned above, the accessibility of technology creates communities and services. So, is there a case for Location Based Social Networking? Yes. But as I wrote in my first post, before you start wondering about your business model (profit), think about what is the service and real value you provide to your customers. Otherwise, after the novelty period they will run away or simply stop using it – particularly if they need to pay for it.