I think Flickr’s launch of geotagging for photos is the most exciting development in social software since the launch of Friendster way back in 2002. If you are not familiar with the site, Flickr is basically a conventional photo-sharing website like Webshots or Snapfish rolled together with a social networking site like Friendster or Myspace. The service has become very popular because users can share photos with friends and family, search for photos by keyword, or create or join groups with ease. Last week Flickr launched a feature where users can mark where a photo was taken simply by finding that spot on an easy-to-navigate map, and dragging a thumbnail of the photo to the correct spot on the map. Flickr then launched a public map allowing all users to navigate every geotagged photo, or create searches with filters for photos taken by certain people, groups, or with certain descriptions.
What’s the big deal? According to the company blog, Flickr currently stores 228 billion user photos, and that number increases by about a million a day on busy days. Since the geotagging tool launched on August 28th about 3.7 million photos have been indexed. It seems only a matter of time before GPS-enabled cameras and cameraphones become widespread, greatly accelerating the pool of geotagged photos on Flickr or other services, and reducing the inevitable amount of human error. You can see where this is heading: billions of photos of every part of earth searchable by an infinite number of variables including date, keyword, or photographer. Looking for a photo of a landmark with a Creative Commons license? No problem. Want to navigate photos of a news event like a war or crisis by the day they were taken? Enter a few keystrokes. Hoping to keep track of or share geographic scientific data? Drag and drop your images, and choose who to share with. What other uses of geotagging am I missing?