Social Networking

The past year has seen myriad launches of mobile social networks and mobile communities for nearly every niche market imaginable. What social networking has yet to do, on a large scale, is embrace "location" as the keystone to a successful mobile social networking application. Analysts predict that this is the aspect of mobile social networking that will dominate the discussions at next month's conference.

"Mobile social networking is like real estate," says Compete Inc.'s managing director of wireless Adam Guy. "It's all about location. The killer implementation for mobile social networking is really to combine it with the location capabilities of the mobile phone."

While some carriers have already launched "Friend Finder" services, which make use of A-GPS technology to locate a user's buddies on a map, none of these services have managed to corner the market, because they are not working with existing, online social networking sites.

"The solutions we've seen so far are almost there," says iGR analyst Iain Gillott.  "What they haven't done is taken location and overlaid it on top of an established social networking site."

Now that the mobile-specific GPS vendors have shown that their services can successfully locate buddies, the time is ripe for these vendors to work with the established players to launch locations-based services for the mobile platform. 

"Think about all the times you are in the airport, and there are all these people there," Guy says. "I know there are 20 to 30 people from my Linkedin network at the airport, but how do you find them? That's really interesting when you think about the magic of stumbling upon someone you know or like. It's coming."

With the recent rumor that Microsoft may invest $300 million to $500 million for a five percent stake in Facebook, the wheels may already be in motion for one of the biggest online social networks to leverage the mobile expertise of a tech giant. Next month's conference will provide the setting and opportunity to bring location to mobile social networking. -Brian