Google Maps gains tracking feature
SAN FRANCISCO - Google Inc. is adding a mapping feature that lets users track the locations of their friends, a bid to expand the frontier of social networking.
The Latitude program, a feature in the mobile version of Google Maps, will work with wireless devices in 27 countries. A wife could use it to see if her husband is on the way to meet her at a restaurant.
The company is counting on Latitude to help expand beyond Internet searches and raise its profile in social networking. Google plans to build a base of customers for the feature before offering space to advertisers.
Google Latitude uses wireless networks, the global positioning system, and mobile-phone towers to pinpoint users. The service will initially be available on most BlackBerry phones with color screens, as well as newer devices running Windows Mobile or some Symbian software.
Google isn't the first company to try the idea. Software developers have created location-tracking programs for the iPhone, for instance. Latitude is an opt-in program, meaning users have to agree to be tracked by it.