Turn back the dial to 2009, and proximity social networking was buzzing, thanks to the launch of Google Latitude and the hype and oxygen burning around check-in services like Foursquare and Gowalla. Such services promised that we were all going to be broadcasting our location to friends — and even strangers — so that life could be one big serendipitous cool-tastic, gamified hook up.
By 2011 proximity’s potential was powering swathes of startups to jump in and try to ride the hype wave, spurred on by VC cash flowing into location networks. Such as the $41 million that poured into proximity based photo-sharing network Color. Never mind that user adoption wasn’t exactly overwhelming for any of these location services. Foursquare reported 10 million users in 2011. Compare that to the growth rate of mobile messaging apps — for example China’s WeChat, which has amassed 190 million+ monthly active users in around two years — and there’s no denying that proximity in and of itself is not something that turns the majority on.
Most people need to communicate at regular intervals — which is the driving force behind the rise and rise of mobile messaging apps. Far fewer people feel a similar imperative to regularly broadcast their location. Or tether their communications to a particular location. That’s got ‘niche use-case’ written all over it.