New social-media tools
Foursquare, 12seconds, Google Wave and Monocle are the next big things.
Goodbye Facebook, hello face time
Social-media mavens are already tapping into Foursquare, a cell-phone app that lets you “check in” to your hangout spots. How it works: Once you’ve checked in to your favorite café, taqueria or bookstore via a “tip” (e.g., “Loving the meatloaf cupcakes at Meatloaf Bakery”), you’re able to find out who else frequents that haunt and whether they enjoyed the carne asada. Most important, by checking in, you essentially tell your network (composed of close friends rather than those 2,000 Twitter followers) that they can join you. Social perks aside, some of Foursquare’s users log on for the competitive, gamelike element. Every Foursquare check-in earns you points. Check in first at a new restaurant and earn five points, take a friend with you to earn one point, and visit a venue more than any other Foursquare devotee and you become “the mayor.” As the Foursquare app grows, the plan is for these venues to start rewarding points-earning fans with freebies. But Foursquare has a long way to go, at least in Chicago: Launched in spring 2009, the network boasts 60,000 users but very few here. Early adopter Sarah Best, the Chicago Office of Tourism’s Web specialist, says, “I haven’t gotten any ‘tips’ at local businesses yet, [but] I see there being a very good chance of it becoming popular in Chicago in the coming year.”
Tweet without lifting a finger
With smartphone companies skewing their products toward video, it’s only a matter of time before folks are trading in typing for moving images. Like Twitter’s 140 characters, video status-update service 12seconds lets you make 12-second videos. Sun-Times multimedia producer Craig Newman says 12seconds fills a social-networking niche, even if the tool—which debuted in spring 2009 and is still in beta—hasn’t caught traction. To use the service, sign up on 12seconds.com, and then click your mouse to start recording via cell phone or computer camera. It automatically updates on the 12seconds site—and you can also use much larger platforms, like Facebook and Twitter, to update your v-status. The real genius of 12seconds is that it runs and stores your videos, so, unlike a video podcast, you don’t need to weigh down your hard drive with hefty files.
Wave goodbye to e-mail
Last spring, Google extended its Internet dominance by debuting Google Wave. Essentially, the “personal communication and collaboration tool” works to combine all Internet networking functions, from e-mailing to sharing photos online. Google Wave is still in closed preview mode, but soon anyone will be able to open a “wave” and type, edit and download video anywhere in the wave, which can also be translated into 40 languages. Scott Kleinberg, RedEye’s senior editor for print and digital, loads RedEye’s daily content onto a wave (the rag is the only daily using Google Wave). “The best part of the wave is that it takes on a life of its own,” Kleinberg says. “It becomes completely organic where people add thoughts.” Lest you think this looks more like a business tool than a social network, Kleinberg adds: “Wave shows us that people love to not only interact with us, but with others in the wave. Friendships are clearly being formed. ”
Hasta la vista, reality
You know how the Terminator’s red-laser eye sent information into his droid brain? Well, in a few years our cell phones will operate just like cyborgs. It’s called augmented reality, and it already exists. In August, Yelp added the search tool Monocle to its iPhone apps. Monocle records anything in front of your camera lens (buildings, sidewalks, El stops) and then overlays the real-time footage with Yelp reviews. Soon, social-networking sites will work the same way. Sidle up to a bar, whip out your iPhone, and you instantly know that the server is in your global network. “Imagine, instead of [seeing] a stream, you can see where your Twitter followers are in real time as they move around,” Kleinberg says, “as long as that kind of stuff doesn’t creep you out too much.”