I’ve been fascinated by social mobile location services since at least 2006 when, three years before Foursquare and year after Google acquired Dodgeball, a UK entrepreneur created BuddyPing, now sadly defunct, and right up to the launch of Pin Drop the other day. The rise of the iPhone shortly after created an ecosystem of location-aware apps which has continued to mushroom ever since. But there’s one thing that has frustrated me. Seeing where people are right now is all very well. But I what really want to know is – where will they be next? And note just the future, but in the next few hours? It’s something I’ve decided to call Near-time Location Planning. Now, in ‘Global Planning’, Dopplr had an amazing vision of where the future and location could be mixed, but Nokia’s acquisition effectively killed its development. Plancast has been interesting but it’s not location aware. Ditto and Foreca.st have come close. But not quite.
Now I think I may have found potentially my Nirvana: Uberlife (an alpha iPhone app is here).
This is what I call a real world, location-based social network for near-time location planning. After bubbling under in London’s tight-knit tech scene for the last couple of weeks I’ve managed to give the service a try and all the building blocks for a great application are there. Today they are launching their API, web and mobile app, and an early alpha version of their iPhone app is available in the app store now.
With Uberlife users create “Hangouts” on-the-go or, but, crucially, they can create a hangout in advance show when and where they’ll be. The Hangout is then broadcast firstly on the service and can also be shared more widely on Facebook and Twitter, inviting anyone who’s free to come join at that time and location. While Foreca.st and Ditto do that, the sheer lack of features has become frustrating – plus, Uberlife is now in a position to take location data from other apps, not just Forusquare.
Other users then join the hangout and can share it, creating a serendipitous event that might not otherwise exist if it attempted in the present rather than the future. This “Intention broadcasting” – something that startups like Dopplr and even Plazes (with its Activities stream) pioneered – but both were either too early or didn’t crack it.
The Hangout created also creates a guest list of the people who are attending, together with comments, check-ins and photos that can capture their memories afterwards in a little packaged event.
There is also a gaming element. Every time two people who meet at a hangout start following each other in Uberlife they get “Connector Scores” and whoever created the Hangout earns points – that’s good old fashioned ‘gamification’ that incentivises the creation of hangouts. A local and global leaderboard of these Connectors is due to be released soon. Let’s see what that leads to because put it this way, local businesses are far more interested in the fact that 20 people are planning to turn up, than handing over a discount on the latte to the one guy who happens to be the Foursquare Mayor.
Plus there is real-world verification: There is both a follow and friend model, but two people following each other in uberlife will only become friends once they’ve attended the same hangout in real life.
However, it’s tough to be a nasty stalked on Uberlife. There is intentionally no one-to-one or private communication between users other than ‘in public’ via commenting. However a sort of Direct Message feature is planned.
Users can import their Facebook Likes and follow interests tags to be recommended hangouts arranged by others from the uberlife community.
Right now Uberlife is building a community in London, with other cities planned. Just as Foursquare rolled out city by city, it looks like Uberlife is planning something similar – although right now the app can be used anywhere.
Anyone can sign up to request an invite from their friends on Uberlife or from the Uberlife team directly. That’s keeping the community pretty enthusiastic and tight right now.
Uberlife is CEO and founder Sanchita Saha’s second startup in the ‘online to offline social networking space’, having developed it as an offshoot to its mother company CitySocialising. The startup raised £1m Series A funding from PROfounders Capital back in Dec 2010. CitySocialising is essentially an older service similer to Meetup.com, but has over 150,000 users who are about to be told about Uberlife.
Despite sounding a little too close to the Taxi service called Uber, I think Uberlife has a future ahead of it.