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Now for location-based social networking

Vodacom’s new social networking service, The GRID, promises to be South Africa’s first location-based social networking service for mobile phones. Now out in a beta version, it displays users’ positions on a street map on their phones, locates friends in the neighbourhood and allows them to leave multimedia messages. Read more …

Vodacom is set to launch The GRID, South Africa’s first location-based social networking service for mobile phones. Currently in beta testing, The Grid, when activated, displays the user’s approximate position on a local street map on their phone, locates friends in the neighbourhood, and allows them to leave multimedia messages connected to the places they visit via virtual map tags – or blips, as they are called on The GRID.

The GRID can be used by all South African mobile phone users on most phones currently on the market. For Vodacom subscribers, the service utilises a network-positioning system based on local mobile phone transmitters.This determines their approximate position and displays data via a WAP site or JAVA application.

Subscribers to other networks that are yet to launch Location Based Services can manually position themselves. Other than regular data connection charges, The GRID is free to join and access.

The application has been developed in South Africa by Vodacom, but will operate as an independent, network-neutral brand. Revenue is expected to come from advertising, subscription fees for enhanced services and transactional revenue between users.

The GRID includes features that will be familiar to users of social networking services such as Facebook or MySpace and communication tools like instant messaging or chat. The key difference is that the service is intended for use primarily on the move. For example, a user can locate a nearby restaurant recommended by friends (via blips left on the GRID’s map), see which contacts are in the neighbourhood, and invite them to join their friends for lunch.

The GRID’s initial services fall into the following categories:

Privacy and security for users have been important in the the development of The GRID: users can set their own preferences on who has access to their approximate location and their personal content.

“With the GRIDs location-based services, we were able to add another dimension to the global online social networking phenomenon,”” says Rick Joubert, executive head of The GRID. “”It’s the first of its kind in the country and really taps into making the most of your core localised contacts networks – almost like an area specific guide book with recommendations from your friends.””

How to access the GRID

To access the GRID, SMS the word GRID to 33313 or register on the web site .

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