The most important feature of now-deceased Google Latitude, for me, was the ability to publish your real-time location on your own web site, also known as the “public location badge”. I had set this up under a private URL which I only gave to a couple of friends. Actually, and totally unexpected for me, this turned into the most intimate link between me and my parents that had existed in decades. And I was not alone: this thread brought up experiences from a surprising number of people who had found surprisingly intimate and, shall I say, human uses of Latitude.
This is no more. It was given the axe by Google like many other services, and supposedly replaced by an integration with Google+ that is, as of this writing, not even close to the features that Latitude had. I searched high and low but there is no service in sight that could fill the gap.
So I decided to roll my own. I created a simple mash-up of my Foursquare feed and the Google Maps API, which displays my last few check-ins nicely laid out on a map with a timeline on the left. (I’m actually surprised that Foursquare doesn’t offer a feature like this.)
The one downside of this compared to Latitude is that it’s not real-time, always-on, since it shows only my check-ins. I mitigated this by setting up automatic check-ins at the places where I most frequently show up: home and work. (The Android app FsIntents lets you do that easily; iOS solutions also exist.)
Compared to Latitude, my solution also has a few very nice upsides going for it:
- It shows semantic locations – in other words, it gives an idea of what I’m doing, rather than just where I am.
- It shows history, rather than just a single position as the location badge did.
- It is a real map, rather than just a static image. It is zoomable and scrollable, satellite-switchable, and even street view is in there.
It’s implemented as a simple php script, named pub4sq.php, which can be downloaded from github. Instructions how to customize it for your own feed are in the file. I’ll also take the opportunity and make the map of my own feed public: You can henceforth find my reasonably current position under drmirror.net/pos.