POIfriend (pronounced like boyfriend), which has nothing to do with the traditional Hawaiian dish of fermented taro, aims to be “the point of interest community that connects people and the places important to them.” Sounds easy enough, right? That’s because it is. POIfriend.com is based out of Toronto and was started by Dave Krawczyk and Bill McLean. It’s essentially a social network that allows users to create and share their own POIs within their group of friends or with the entire community. Sounds pretty dumb, huh? Well, if it were just a social network to collect and share POIs then, yes, it is dumb and not worth the time to sign up, but POIfriend.com is much more than that.
The real magic happens when you download any and all POIs you aggregate and then transfer those onto your TomTom, Mio, Navman, Magellan or Garmin GPS device. That’s the beauty of this free service. Think of it as a mashup of Yelp, Facebook, and tripadvisor. The community rates and comments on just about every destination imaginable, which includes restaurants, hotels, theaters, and anything else that would be considered a point of interest. A good majority of the POIs listed are user generated whether they’re companies like Wal*Mart paying a lowly intern to list all of their stores is unknown. There are POI Groups as well. My good friend’s Dave and Aileen are having their wedding this August in LA and on their site they’ve listed a handful of places for people to visit in their free time. They could easily create a POI Group called “Dave and Aileen’s wedding” listing all the places they mentioned along with the locations of their actual wedding, the rehearsal dinner and so on. I wonder if they’d let me get away with doing this for them as their wedding gift? And to make it even easier to distinguish the POIfriend POIs that you download to your GPS, you can upload a specific icon to denote specific POIs. So for my friends’ wedding, I can upload and tag all the locations with a wedding cake, for instance.
Easier said than done? It actually is. I’ve been testing the service over the last few weeks here in NYC, Miami and Seattle with a TomTom XL GPS. I uploaded a few POIs from my trip in Miami and listed off a few concert venues while in Seattle. The only downfall I’ve come across so far is that you can’t actually create one POI. You have to create a POI Group even if it lists one place. The site is also not the friendliest to navigate, but that could just be me. Overall, the service works as intended, but it is mostly user generated so it’s only as good as the community wants it to be. As more and more Web 2.0 patrons register and contribute to the site, the better off it will be in the long run, but it works fine now. They simply need to clean up the site and make it a little more user friendly.