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Loopt 3.0 Marries Background Location With The Check-In

When Loopt first launched on the iPhone alongside the App Store in 2008, it looked to be an awesome new location-based service. Apple clearly agreed, as they gave the app plenty of face time: demo slots on stage at major events, appearances in commercials, promotion in the App Store, etc. But the early version of Loopt had a fatal flaw: to work properly, the app had to be running all the time. Now, this wasn’t really Loopt’s flaw, since the iPhone did not allow third-party applications to run in the background — but it was still a flaw. Today, that flaw gets corrected — sort of.

The new version of Loopt, 3.0, which is set to appear in the App Store at some point today, is built to use Apple’s new iOS 4 software (formerly known as iPhone OS 4). The biggest new addition to the software is the ability for third-party apps to run processes in the background. Yes, this is somewhat limited, but included in what you can do is location-updating in the background. And Loopt 3.0 takes full advantage of that. But at the same time, it also still offers the functionality that proved to be more popular on the iPhone: check-ins.

While continually updating location apps like Loopt failed to catch on in a major way due to the earlier iPhone limitations, check-in based apps like Foursquare and Gowalla have gotten traction recently by getting around this limitation because they explicitly make a user check-in at a venue. The idea became so popular that in November of last year that Loopt pivoted away from implicit location, to this check-in model with version 2.0 of its app. Version 3.0 shift back a bit towards the implicit background location, but marries it with the check-in.

So how does background location work with Loopt 3.0? Well, when you check-in to a venue, there is a new “Live Location” area at the bottom of the check-in screen. This is a slider which allows you to set how long you’d like Loopt to update your location in the background without you having to do anything. This slider can be set from anywhere to a few minutes up to 8 hours. When it’s set, if the iPhone notices you’ve left an area (which it can tell by your phone switching cell towers), it will update your location on the Loopt map that is built in to the software.

Now, it’s important to note that Loopt is thinking about the privacy ramifications of this. They have a setting to make it so that background location updates can only been seen by a small subset of your social graph. This way, you can make it so only a group like your family can see where you are in real-time. And again, to see this, they’ll have to load up the map on Loopt since this background location feature won’t explicitly check you in at a venue — it just shows where you are on this map.

If you do allow your larger social graph to see this background location information, you can imagine that it may lead to even more serendipitous encounters than the current batch of check-in apps do. As I’ve noted recently, one big downside of check-in apps is that there’s no real way to “check-out” — that is, let your friends know you’ve left a venue. The only way to do this is to check-in someplace else. With background location enabled, your friends could see that while you may have checked-in to the pizza joint an hour ago, you’ve since left and are a mile away from there.

This background location features offers something else cool: if Loopt sees that a friend of yours (using background location) is nearby, it can send you a Push Notification to alert you of that.

It’s worth noting that the iPhone limitation wasn’t the only thing keeping background location from taking off. After all, phones such as those running Android and some BlackBerry phones have had the ability to update location in the background for some time. And while apps like Google Latitude say this model is working on Android, the public largely doesn’t see it that way — at least not yet. The underlying issue here seems to be that by having explicit check-ins, it’s a natural security barrier. People can only know where you are when you explicitly say where you are. With background location, you have to remember that you may be telling people where you are implicitly.

Latitude does things like ping you every so often to remind you that you’re sharing this data, but it’s still kind of a clunky user experience. As I mentioned, Loopt’s method is to set the slider for how long you’d like to update you location in the background — and no matter what, it times out after 8 hours unless you explicitly turn it on again. This seems like a pretty good idea.

On top of the new background location feature, Loopt 3.0 brings an overhauled UI. The new main screen is a big improvement (think: main iPhone screen or Facebook main screen).

Judging from Foursquare co-founder Dennis Crowley’s comments to us last week, Loopt should have a healthy head start with this background location functionality. But if it proves to be successful, you can bet the rivals will hop on board quickly. Latitude, meanwhile, it evaluating trying to bring a native app to the iPhone for use with iOS 4 — you may recall Apple wouldn’t let them in the store the last time around, so they built a web app.

When it’s available, you can find Loopt 3.0 here in the App Store. It’s a free download.

Information provided by CrunchBase


Buddy Media’s Facebook Management Platform For Brands Goes Global

Startup Buddy Media, a company that provides social media management tools to brands, is adding a new feature, called +Global, to its Facebook management system to allow marketers to publish customized fan pages in multiple languages on Facebook.

Previously, marketers managing Facebook pages for brands would have to create separate pages for each country, making the process more fragmented and the design inconsistent. The new feature allows administrators to serves unified Facebook content based on user country and language settings. So a user in Germany would see the same content of a Facebook page as a user in the U.S., but the content would be in German. Brands can also customize content, promotions and social applets to various countries within one system.

Starwood Hotels and Resorts are one of the first brands to implement the new feature, and is now serving customized language and content on its Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) Facebook page to guests from the U.S., Spain, Germany and China.

The feature seems like a useful tool for brands and marketers to save time and money to be able to engage international users more efficiently. As more brands look to Facebook to engage with consumers, Buddy Media is seeing considerable growth. The startup finished 2009 with 150 clients, and has already added 45 more in 2010 alone. In addition to Starwoods, other well-known brands that use Buddy Media’s platform include Budweiser, NBC’s iVillage, designer Tory Burch, and the NHL. And the startup is was profitable at the end of 2009, and is on track to make $20 million in sales this year.


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Report: BP’s Brand Value Plunges By Nearly $1 Billion

There’s no doubt that BP’s brand value has been affected by the explosion of its Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico in April. And as the damaged rig has been dumping thousands of barrels of oil into the Gulf each day and causing massive environmental casualties, BP has been on a social media and advertising campaign to repair some of the damage.

Brand measurement firm General Sentiment’s Media Value Report has measured the damage made to the oil giant’s reputation from negative sentiment online. General Sentiment’s technology evaluates Twitter, Facebook and over 30 million sources of content to evaluate sentiment about a brand.

So how much is the damage to BP’s brand worth? General Sentiment says nearly $1 billion. Since June 1st, BP has lost more than $32 million a day in brand value.

To be exact, General Sentiment’s report contends that BP has lost $949,071,279 in total media value since April, with the media value cost of each gallon spilled in the Gulf at $6.66. So far, BP has released roughly 142,500,000 gallons of oil into the Gulf since April, says the brand measurement firm.

To put this in perspective, BP has lost much more than $1 billion in market value since the spill. Since April 21, BP’s market value has dropped from $184 billion to $96.5 billion, dropping by roughly $87.5 billion in a matter of two months.

You can download the report here.


Jason Calacanis’ Poker Face

In our ongoing coverage of the life and times of Jason Calacanis, the video below is instructive on many levels. Calacanis—who is an Internet entrepreneur (the CEO of Mahalo), conference organizer (our former partner in TechCrunch50), and Web celeb—loves to play high stakes poker.

In fact, next week he will be one of the players on The Big Game, airing on Fox, in which businessmen are paired up with pros.

In the clip below, Calacanis loses a $204,400 pot to ten-time World Series Of Poker champion Doyle Brunson, who beats his two kings with three sixes. Brunson was so sure of his hand that he ran the river card three times, and won each time. The look of disbelief on Calacanis’ face at the end is priceless. “It looks like the Internet millionaire just had a server crash,” intones one of the commentators. And before that, “Jason is not a very experienced player.” Ouch.

To be fair, Brunson is one of the best players in the world, and Calacanis squeezed out at least one moment of glory in another hand. He won’t tell me how he did overall, but notes that a “Mahalo logo on TV for 5 nights” and a sponsorship he finagled “means I’m protected on the downside.”


U.S. Open Golf Site Draws 518 Percent Increase In Mobile Visitors

Mobile Web usage continues to grow by leaps and bounds as smartphones with large touch screens become the new normal. One quick data point comes from the United States Golf Association and IBM, which runs its Websites. During the 2010 U.S. Open golf tournament last week, 1.7 million people visited the U.S. Open’s mobile site, a 518 percent increase from last year. In contrast, the regular site saw only 4.2 million visitors, during the week, up 8 percent.

In other words, nearly 30 percent of traffic to the U.S. Open site was from mobile devices. The fact that golf fans didn’t need to fire up their laptops or turn on their TVs to find the latest scores and keep up with the play was enough to make the mobile site take off. And the mobile site was pretty stripped down—there was an all-text news feed, scores, tee times, and some video.

Really, that is all you need. Mobile sites should still be built for delivering quick bursts of information. When you are on the go, you probably don’t have time to wait for a busy page to load with graphics you can barely see anyway. But before touch-screen phones, the mobile Web was too difficult to navigate. Remove the friction of getting on the Web, and people will come in droves.

Information provided by CrunchBase