Monday, March 4, 2013

Location-based social network

Two weeks in a row I have been on a plane heading out to customer site.  Whenever I get on a plane, I check for wifi connectivity from my iPad.  More airlines are starting to offer wifi connections, yet I have not seen any one offering for free.

I have grown so used to having internet connection wherever I go.  When I open my iPad, I assume there will be some connection available somehow.  It has become a habit of mine.

Same happened today.  I opened my iPad, tapped on Settings and went to check what wifi connections were available.  It was showing SouthwestWiFi.  Neat.  When I tried connecting, browser redirected me to the Southwest landing page.  Not a surprise.  Reading the fine prints, I found out that internet connection was sold for $8 per flight, and only available for free to A-list passengers (Southwest frequent flyer club).

For me it made a little sense to pay $8 for internet connection.  Mostly I wanted to browse the net and look for a good local restaurant to eat dinner while sitting on my seat.  Looking over the laptop on the next seat neighbor, I could see the same Southwest landing page announcing $8 charge.  She also seemed to linger a bit, then closed her laptop soon after.

I am sure this is not an isolated incident.  Many want to connect to the net, but ended up not connecting because paying for internet access is another example of nickel and diming.  Flyers are already asked to pay for food and check-in bags which used to be available for free on most airlines.

Okay.  I can understand charging for internet access.  But what most people look for on a flight is not doing a research on the net.  What people look for is to find a good way to pass time while they are cooped up in their tiny seats.  Guess what.  Most people are looking for the same thing, and they are trying to find their ways to pass time surfing the web.

Why not create an impromptu location-based social network?  We already have technologies to create wifi connectivities without relying on the central servers.  Why not create ad-hoc network where people can connect to have conversations?

Because there are people like me and my next seat passenger on every flight, there is no need for fancy distribution strategy.  Just stand up a wifi connection where people can connect, and let them exchange messages from their seats.  It would be also interesting to create simple puzzle games a la Word With Friends by Zynga.

Passengers on a flight is one example, but there are other examples as well.  Students in a classroom, people in a queue waiting for amusement park ride, people stuck on a stand-still traffic unexpectedly, etc.  These are all examples of people’s interests aligning based on their location.

Any other examples of location-based social network that you see out there?

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