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11/5/2010
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Location-Based Services Rarely Used

Pew Research Center study shows only 4% of American adults online employ geosocial or location-based services, largely unchanged from a study of GPS-enabled mobile devices.

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Only 4% of adults online are using a location-based service, such as Foursquare or Gowalla, to share their location with friends or find someone nearby, according to the first report on the use of “geosocial” or location-based services by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life project.

The study also revealed that on any given day, 1% of Internet users are utilizing these services. The findings reflect virtually no change from a May 2010 survey, which showed that 5% of adult Internet users said they had used a geosocial or location-based site from their GPS-enabled mobile devices to “check in” to a location to notify others of their whereabouts.

The Pew Center study found that 7% of adults who use the Internet from their mobile device use a location-based service and that 8% of adults between 18 and 29 go online to use location-based services, significantly more than adults online in any other age group. Location-based services are used by 10% of online Hispanics, significantly more than the 3% of online whites or online blacks (5%). Services such as Foursquare or Gowalla are used by 6% of men online, compared with only 3% of women online. Four percent of respondents have an income level of $75,000 or higher, while 6% have an income level of between $50,000 and $74,999.

Besides the social networking aspect of location-based services, users can leave comments or reviews for a restaurant or other business that can be viewed by other users. Detailed, real-time customer information about habits and preferences is valuable to businesses looking to offer special deals, discounts and rewards to frequent users.

An Internet-enabled mobile device is generally required to use a location-based service, but 2% of non-wireless users -- those who do not use a wireless-enabled laptop or go online with a cell phone -- reported also using this type of service. Geosocial services like Brightkite, which lets cell phone users update a location by SMS, and Google Latitude or Dopplr, which can be used on a desktop computer, are other examples of how location-based services can be used, the report said.

With pre-existing sites like Twitter and Facebook now featuring the ability of users to report their location, “it is possible as the lines between different types of services become increasingly blurred, it is difficult for respondents to always pinpoint exactly what sort of software they are using -- especially on their mobile devices,” the report noted.

The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project conducted a telephone survey between Aug. 9 and Sept. 13, 2010, and the findings are based on a sample of 3,001 adults ages 18 and older.

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