Just a day after Facebook announced an enhanced mobile platform that offers more location-based services, a report by the Pew Internet and American Life Project (PDF) reported that the trend remains small - with only 4 percent of online Americans using location-based services.
But what does that mean? Are location-based services doomed? Will they never tap the mainstream? Are the business models built around location "check-ins" destined to fail?
If that four percent number were bigger or the study was showing some sort of rapid growth, I might have to raise an eyebrow. But location-based services are exactly where I would expect them to be - still among the early-adopters and bigger among young people.
The same survey found that 8 percent of Internet users between ages 18 and 29 reported using a location service such as Foursquare or Gowalla. I can't help but wonder what the 13-18 numbers might have looked like if teens had been included in the survey. And I also can't wait to see how any of the numbers in the chart below change after Facebook's Deals Platform gains some momentum.
I say that because it goes to the heart of one of my posts earlier today - that older, "frugal" folks like me might find some value in engaging in location-based services if the result were some sort of financial incentive by a nearby business - such as a free drink with my sandwich at the deli down the street.
The numbers may be small now - but they'll grow. And that four percent number really isn't all that small when you consider that location-based services are just starting to gain some traction. Sure, the folks in tech circles around Silicon Valley may make you feel like you're behind the times if you're not checking in on Foursquare throughout the day. But, in reality, they're ahead of the times.
With every day that passes, kids from that unknown 13-18 demographic move up a notch into the next age group, bringing their tech habits with them. I have no doubt that today's kids - who don't see much difference between location-based services like Foursquare and a Facebook status update that tells friends where you're dining.
Through Facebook, we - me, the wife and kids - all told our kids that we were vacationing in Hawaii. Interestingly enough. my wife and I also were sure to share the fact that someone was house- and pet-sitting for us while we were gone - just in case some Internet wise guy was thinking about swinging by the house to see what might be inside.