Twitter is rolling out a new API that will enable users to tag tweets with latitude and longitude information, making it the latest to tap into the craze for location-based services.
Developers working on the Twitter platform have created geolocation apps in the past, but those programs required users to input their location manually.
“Most of the location-based projects we see are built using the simple, account-level location field folks can fill out as part of their profile,” Twitter cofounder Biz Stone said in a blog post. “Since anything can be written in this field, it’s interesting but not very dependable.”
Adding a location-based feature to Twitter could help incubate hyperlocal communities on the popular microblogging service. Stone said that users would be able to switch their accounts to receive the tweets of other people ion the vicinity, instead of the users they normally follow.
“It’s easy to imagine how this might be interesting at an event like a concert or even something more dramatic like an earthquake,” he said.
The added context of location information would seem a natural compliment to Twitter, whose users are fond of sending status updates from their mobile devices while on the go.
But there could also be a business case for the feature. Twitter’s founders have talked about various plans to monetize their creation, such as premium services for businesses and advertising. On the ad front, the location awareness could offer the same promise for advertisers of the mobile Web on GPS-enabled devices — that is, serving hypertargeted ads for local businesses.
Users will have to activate the geo-awareness feature on their Twitter accounts. The default setting is off, as it is for most geolocation apps, owing to obvious privacy concerns.
Stone also said that users’ positions would not be stored “for an extended period of time.”
Twitter plans to roll out the API to its platform developers before making the feature generally available to users on Twitter.com and its mobile site.