Mark Cuban hasn’t done anything interesting in web or mobile since he made his fortune selling to Yahoo during the dot-com bubble, but yesterday he opened his yap to diss location-based services like Foursquare.
“I think location-based services won’t survive as standalone companies. They have to evolve to something different. The location-based side of their businesses are going to quickly become features of Facebook, Google and other ubiquitous platforms.”
A recent report indicated that Facebook was trouncing Foursquare in terms of attracting local ad dollars, a fact that would support Mr. Cuban’s thesis.
But Cuban has a pretty fundamental misunderstanding of how these kinds of services work, which is that he assumes the scale of an entire network will suddenly be relevant to the activity going on around location.
Facebook Places debuted back in August, and I can’t remember the last time I saw it in my activity stream. I peeked at the Places section on the mobile app today and found only five of my 647 friends had checked in during the past week. When I asked one about it, she replied that she’s never even used Places, but another friend of hers had checked her in.
Foursquare is a powerful mobile app because it has a critical mass of location based activity. When I’m out at night and a bar sucks, I can look around to see what’s trending in that neighborhood, and enough folks are using the service so that it provides great results.
Location is also a very sensitive issue. A recent Microsoft poll found 52% of people are concerned about the implications of sharing their location and 81 percent about loss of privacy. Foursquare is a community of people who I’ve chosen to share location with, and gives me the option to broadcast that to other networks, or keep it private.
Facebook, on the other hand, has the opposite system, because it allows friends to check other friends into a location. In other words, they don’t understand the sector.
Do you know anyone using Facebook Places or folks who have switched from Foursquare to Facebook? Anyone using the Places API who has a sense of their size? Holler at us in the comments.
bpopper [at] observer.com | @benpopper