When you want to see someone on the map you need to ask them to share locations with you. They will receive a request by email to which they need to opt in. One can choose to share one’s location, reject it, or as a compromise, to only see the other party’s location but stay invisible. Then you will find markers with your friend’s icons placed on top of a Google Maps widget, and you can access more info from there. Google also notes that you can share a status message, which synchronizes with Google Talk.
Using just the iGoogle widget without further plugins, you’ll need to update your location manually by entering e.g. your city and country. If you run Google Latitude on your phone (available in 27 countries so far, Google says, allowing you to “call, SMS, IM, or email each other within the app”), Google offers you to have your coordinates be updated automatically. And even if you’re on the computer, Google offers you to download their Gears plugin which they say uses wireless signals to determine your computer’s location. When Latitude tried to determine my location with Gears, it was spot on and put me into my home street.
Google keeps canceling products (like mobile service Dodgeball or 3D world Lively) but they also keep releasing new ones. Done right or better than similar apps in this space, Latitude could be an interesting feature addition to Google’s social network ambitions. And as any service that sends out invites of some form, it could also add more info noise requiring you to set up new filters. The plague of social networks: “x wants to share their location with you on Google Latitude” might be fun to answer once, but not a dozen times.
[Thanks DPic, Danny, Niranjan and Reto!]
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