Glympse Rolls Out Facebook Tie-In, Looks to Gain Traction in Location-Aware Social Networks

4/16/10Follow @gthuang

Question: Where is Glympse? Answer: Getting more socially connected.

The Redmond, WA, startup, which makes location-based software for mobile phones, is announcing today it has integrated its service with Facebook. This means consumers can automatically share where they are in real-time with certain friends and contacts in their social network via their iPhone or Android smartphone.

It’s not a custom deal with Facebook, but it takes advantage of the social network’s capabilities and reach. The integration allows anyone who has the Glympse service to have their location pop up on a map within Facebook so their friends can see where they in real time. The move “will help in the distribution” but doesn’t generate direct revenue, says Glympse co-founder and CEO Bryan Trussel. “It’s a breadth awareness and usage play for us.” Translation: it could help the company grow, and in a big way.

The idea behind the company is that your friends, family, and business contacts can get an immediate “glympse” of where you are, automatically and dynamically (your position moves on the map; see photo below), for a certain amount of time that you set. So you don’t have to text or call them saying you’re going to be a few minutes late, or you just left the house. About a year ago, we pointed out that the main challenge the company faces is getting a critical mass of consumers to use the technology—and then figuring out how to get paid. A pretty familiar road for any Internet or mobile startup.

Since then, location-based mobile services have exploded, with the rise of map applications on smartphones, more widespread adoption of smartphones themselves (and “social phones” like the new Microsoft Kin), and the popularity of location-based social networks like Foursquare. Other companies in the sector include Loopt, Brightkite, Where (formerly called uLocate), Pelago (maker of Whrrl), and Google with its Latitude service.

“People are expecting their phone to know where they are, and to filter information based on their location,” says Trussel, who had a 16-year run at Microsoft before starting Glympse. In terms of building a reliable and mainstream location-sharing service, he says, “We set out to be the quickest, lightest, simplest way to do it.”

Glympse

Trussel says Glympse has kept true to its original vision from the company’s founding in 2008. Now it is being flexible about how it is approaching things like integrating into all the online social networks. For example, the fact that Facebook is soon coming out with its own location-sharing service doesn’t seem to concern Trussel. “We look at Facebook not as a competitor but as a great social network we can integrate into,” he says. “The more larger networks are built, and even built around location, the better for us.” One question for startups like Glympse, though, will be whether Facebook will try to “own” its location-based services itself, or keep the software platform open for application developers to build on.

The Glympse app remains free, and is available on Windows phones as well as the iPhone and Android phones; a BlackBerry version is coming soon too. It sounds like location-based advertising will be a big part of Glympse’s business model, as well as licensing its technology to partners (presumably wireless carriers and handset makers). Trussel declined to comment on the company’s partners, revenues, number of customers, or funding plans. Last year, he said Glympse had been angel-financed and had a half-dozen employees.

“We feel we’ve hit critical mass now,” Trussel says. “We’ve filed the IP patents. We have breadth on the platform, we’ve got the social network integration, and we’ve distinguished ourselves in the location space, where you can share as much or as little as you want…The good part for us is, the opportunity is much greater than the resources we have.”

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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