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Friday March 11, 2011 5:04 am

Google Latitude adds check-in deals

Google took aim at Foursquare on Thursday with the addition of checkin rewards for its Latitude app for Google Maps, while replacing 'mayors' with "gurus" and "VIPs".

Google's location class warfare didn't stop there: there are a poor, middle, and elite class under Google's hierarchy, known as "Regulars," "VIPs," and "Gurus," respectively. Users who check in for the first time might not receive any special designation.

Users will need to update to Google Maps 5.2 via the Android Market, join Latitude, then tap "check in here" from the menu. Google said a version for the iPhone would be coming soon.

The new rewards will be rolled out - where else? - at the South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) show in Austin, Texas this weekend, where discounts will be offered at restaurants, bars, and other venues around the downtown area.

The new checkins scheme provides a sort of game-like approach to rewards, with additional checkins propelling users to new social rankings - and new discounts, to boot. "Footprint" icons let users track their progress. As an example, a restaurant could offer a free drink to a regular, free breadsticks to a VIP, and possibly a free dessert to a "guru".

Google began offering checkins on Latitude in February.

 

"Now, check-ins let [friends] see the cool restaurant I'm trying in Taipei or join me for a latte at the cafe nearby," Joe LaPenna, a Google software engineer, wrote in a blog post at the time.

"In addition to pride, you can now unlock check-in offers that places have created for your status level," Kenny Stoltz, a product manager at Google, wrote in a blog post on Thursday. "So, a restaurant or shop can give their Regulars a reason to keep coming back and their Gurus an awesome reward for their loyalty. Check-in offers can be as creative as places want for any of the three status levels. You can find places where check-in offers are available in Google Maps for Android search results and Place pages."

Foursquare pioneered the check-in-for-rewards mechanism, with local businesses like Starbucks offering rewards for the user who checked in the most, or the "mayor". Facebook then launched its Places app with Foursquare as a partner. Places' mechnisms involved a "loyalty program" where users could potentially stamp "punch cards" for discounts on, for example, the tenth sandwich purchased. Foursquare chief executive Dennis Crowley subsequently called the Places technology "boring".

Following Foursquare's big update to version 3.0 this week, the location-based "check-in" site on Wednesday announced new improvements to its business side. Foursquare is making it quicker and easier for merchants to enroll on the site, in addition to adding new ways that company owners can promote their businesses through special deals offered exclusively to Foursquare users.

This article, written by Mark Hachman, originally appeared on PCMag.com and is republished on Gear Live with the permission of Ziff Davis, Inc.

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