OSLO accord pushes location-sharing between social networks

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We’ve had OpenId to make the transport of your ID easier between Web sites. We’ve had initiatives on Data Portability to make it easier for you to move your data around between social networks and other apps. But what we haven’t had yet is a way to allow you to share your location between different platforms. That’s something that a new, largely European-inspired, initiative hopes to address. The alliance, called OSLO (Open Sharing of Location-based Objects) includes many of the players in mobile social networking and location-based social software.

Twelve startups, all of whom serve their users with location-based services, have signed an agreement to enable their combined 30 million users to share location information and interact between networks. Currently users are unable to do so as location-based systems operate in a similar fashion to instant messaging systems like AOL and MSN which don’t work with eachother. So for example, you can set your location on Brightkite for instance, but your friends on Rummble wouldn’t see you – but they would if Brightkite joined the initiative.

While Ronan Higgins, CEO, Locle and Andrew Scott, Founder/CEO, Rummble are acting as spokes people, the other companies in the initiative are: www.aka-aki.com, belysio, Buddycloud, Mobiluck, Moximity, Nulaz, Palringo, Rummble, Service2Media, Skout, Tooio and WAYN.

OSLO has been in discussion with Google and Yahoo! about joining the alliance. Google of course recently launched it’s Latitude product, while Yahoo! has been working on FireEagle.

However, Oslo is not a competitor to Google’s Latitude as they’ve spoken to Google, Yahoo! and Vodafone and, according to Higgins, they all want to get on board.

Some of the theoretical benefits to OSLO are:

- Mobile advertisers would benefit from the combined volumes and an ability to better target their campaigns based on location, improving click through rate, ROI and user satisfaction.

- Connecting to people on other networks gives mobile social networking users a more exciting experience.

- Application builders can create better products on top of shared location information.

- Member companies can focus on differentiation and adding value to users rather than bothering with re-building another location system, which is a commodity anyway. The alternative is a fragmentation of technologies.

However, OSLO says, end user privacy and security remains not just a priority “but a pre-requisite”. So OSLO currently mandates that member companies should be able to query the location of users, as long as that user has opted-in to share their location with other OSLO services.

It will be interesting to see how this initiative develops.

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