Location-based social networks seem to be where it’s at right now, and there’s one network that hasn’t quite been able to make its way out of the shadow of American favorites like Foursquare and Gowalla. The Paris-based Tellmewhere may not be getting much press in the English speaking world yet, but it already has more than 500,000 users. Much like its American competitors, Tellmewhere (or Dismoioù as it’s called in France), allows user to “check-in” to the various restaurants, bars, shops, hair salons, and wherever else they choose to visit. Users can review these places and keep an eye on the places their friends check into. Locations are tied to Google Maps and check-ins can be synced with Twitter or Facebook status updates.
A large part of the appeal of apps like Gowalla and Foursquare has been the gaming aspect of checking in. Users earn virtual goods like badges and pins as they check-in to more and more locations. The competition inherent in checking in has become a bit addictive for fans of the two apps, but skeptics of the apps fail to see the point in becoming “mayor” or a member of the top 10 visitors to their favorite spot.
Tellmewhere has taken a step back from the gaming side of check-ins and is instead focusing on the ratings and reviews for its database of locations. Because Tellmewhere users are not using their check-ins to compete with other users, they are allowed to rate and review places they are not actually checked in to. This increase in user-submitted reviews allows for what is probably the most useful and unique feature Tellmewhere has to offer: recommended places. Tellmewhere collects information on users’ preferences and uses the preferences of their friends and other users like them to produce a list of recommended nearby locations. Because the recommendations are based on people who are similar to you and not just your friends, Tellmewhere can use information from locals who are similar to you to give you helpful recommendations wherever you may be traveling.
The Tellmewhere app is downloadable in English, French, German and Italian for the iPhone, iPad and Android. Tellmewhere’s business model relies on pay-per-visit offers from local businesses, so you may be able to find a special discount or offer from your favorite place on their site. While the richest database of places and highest concentration of users is definitely in France, the database of places is getting bigger by the day. Founders Gilles Barbier and Romain Ehrhard hope to expand more into the English speaking market as the year progresses. They released a new version of their iPhone app in January and were the first location based network to have an app ready for the iPad.
While Tellmewhere’s focus on location reviews may facilitate one of its most helpful features, it also draws the site into more direct competition with review sites like Yelp and Qype. That’s on top of the growing number of competitors in the location-based network race. Critics of Tellmewhere doubt the network’s potential to truly compete with its gaming competitors without providing users with some sort of incentive to motivate them to check in. It will certainly be difficult for Tellemwhere to convince current Foursquare and Gowalla users to give up their mayorships and pins and make a complete switch to Tellmewhere.
That being said, it’s still very early in the location-based race. There are plenty of smartphone users who have yet to pick a side in the location war, and many will see the value in the exclusive offers and recommendations Tellmewhere has to offer. Foursquare and Gowalla may want to start watching their backs.