Brightkite Changes Direction

Brighkite has rolled out a new home page today, and for those of us familiar with its old home page, gone are the sample check-ins and photos from your area. Instead, the home page is pushing its group text feature.

In a blog post announcing the change, Brightkite acknowledges that the check-in has become a standard and expected feature of some services, and nearly all services are offering some sort of location tie-in.

Brightkite says it will focus on the following:

Improving mobile messaging
Text messaging hadn’t altered for 20 years, but we’ve changed that. A principle focus is to push the boundaries of text messaging with groups, location, images and more.
Sharing location
Location is the foundation of Brightkite and remains a core focus. You will see location in everything we do — from product to local discounts and promotions. We allow you to share your location broadly to your social networks and with Group Text privately to a hand-picked group of friends.
We will continue to ensure that we snap you to the right place — making sure that we have the broadest, most accurate selection of places and can propose the right place(s) based on your location and location history.

Brightkite also says it will now partner to provide these services:

Social graphs
We don’t have ambitions to become the latest social graph. We believe that you carry around a great social graph in your pocket (your phone’s contact list) and recognize that you’ve spent a lot of effort building out at least one other social network (for many of us this is Facebook). So, we wont require your friends to join Brightkite to use the service and we’ll leverage the networks of friends you’ve already built elsewhere.
We pioneered the check-in several years ago, but as we’ve said believe it is now a commodity. Expect to see less and less emphasis on checking in on Brightkite, and associated streams of user content. Where appropriate, we’ll support checking in to third party services like Facebook and Foursquare. This is an extension of the philosophy we started with in the Spring. Keep a look out for some great new Brightkite features using the Facebook API for check-ins.

My primary use of Brightkite over the last two years has been to track my location through photos. The fact that Brightkite always did what Twitter does but also natively supported photos and location made it a natural choice as I bounced around the globe, tracking my journeys on maps in real-time for friends and family (ok, mostly just family). The fact that I could do it all from my sad little mobile phone via a mobile browser and email made it all the more appealing. Seeing comments on each photo from various people as I went, before I even had Facebook, made it somewhat interactive as well.

I’ve watched Brightkite try some new things, including the Brightkite Wall, Group Text, Photo Tips, Badges of their own, sponsored Badges,, and even augmented reality integration. I’ve also watched them struggle with spam, a highly problematic upgrade, and a drop in its user base (probably to other services).

Brightkite gives no indication that the core location-based photo service on which I rely is going away, but if or when that does, I will be sad to see it go. Thankfully I’ve done a good job of pulling the KML feeds of my trips to local files, along with the images. At least I wouldn’t be losing anything I’ve done, just my ability to continue. And my friends would no longer be inundated with my food photos.

Related Articles:

Example Maps Fed from Brighkite

Pardon the constricted boxes, these maps look much better with a much wider layout than this blog template allows. Just drag around in the boxes to see more.

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