Thursday, October 12, 2006

Geotags and heartbreak

Four years ago I came up with a MID (million dollar idea) that really got me excited. I started talking to friends about it, putting together a business plan, and even had a preliminary talk with an angel investor to see about financing a prototype.

At the time I was working for Airborne Entertainment and my life revolved around mobile games and applications. It was all I thought about, and I was constantly dreaming of new ways to use a cell phone for information and entertainment purposes.

The MID was an application we called 'FloatNotes' and the premise was simple. Using a GPS enabled cell phone, users could leave virtual 'notes' tagged to any physical space. Future users walking by could be notified of the previous note's existance and read it (or view it if it were multimedia, etc) on their own mobile device.

We spent months working through the logistics of spam, user profiles, content organization, recomendations, etc. I truly believe we had a comprehensive service growing in our heads.

Unfortunatly we ran up against two huge roadblocks. With the GPS units in standard cell phones, there was no way to 'push' the Notes onto users. They would have to Pull their GPS coordinates each time they were at a location of interest. At (roughly) $.25 per Pull, this could quickly get costly and frustrating if there was no interesting Notes at that location.

The second major hurdle was the fact that most cellular carriers were reluctant to open up the GPS API to developers due to privacy concerns. Location Based Services (LBS) just didn't seem to be high on the list of priorities for Verizon and Sprint, the two major US carriers.

Frustrated with the lack of foresight on the carriers' side (but hopeful they would one day change their mind and open up the API) we shelved the project.

In the four years since, I've seen many reports in Wired (etc) regarding similar services. Each time I read about one of these 'competitors' my heart sank a little more.

Yesterday, though, I came across Navizon and I finally gave up hope, once and for all, of bringing FloatNotes to market. Navizon's 'Geotags' feature does almost everything we had hoped to do with Floatnotes. It doesn't yet seem to have many systems in place to filter through the eventual masses of geotags that will be concentrated around popular locations (Eiffel Tower, for example), but I'm sure thats just a matter of time. Maybe they haven't read The Long Tail yet? :)

It makes me sad to see this amazing idea brought to market without me, but I'm glad that someone took it the extra step I didn't. I know that no one out there reads this blog (yet) but if anyone ever does come across this post and has tried Navizon, I'd really love to hear your feedback on it.


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