POIFriend.com encourages users to list their favourite locations – or points-of-interest – and offer them as downloads to PCs or GPS devices. Digital Journal learned how social networking and GPS-friendly travelling can work together smoothly.
Digital Journal — It’s not enough to simply use GPS
devices to find out where you’re going. Now, some websites want to moonlight as social networks for people in love with their favourite locales and travel hotspots. Toronto-based POIFriend.com
allows you create and share points-of-interest on its highly interactive site, sorting places by category.
You sign up free and then start listing the locations that matter to you. Say you know about the best work-out gyms in Chicago. You add these venues to the category Health & Wellness and the sub-category Fitness & Exercise. By inputting the address and other relevant info, you add all the gyms you can think of and they’ll be sorted in a list and map. Anyone visiting your list can download the POIs to PCs or GPS-enabled devices. This function allows new residents to Chicago to find all the gyms you listed.
POIFriend.com also offers members the ability to comment on lists and to add their own POIs to someone else’s list. Think of the site as a community for GPS nerds or travelers looking for recommended locales.
Since the site launched in October 2007, it has attracted 10,000 registered members and 150,000 visitors. POIFriends has allowed members to download more than 85,000 points of interest.
A Digital Journal test revealed how the website’s intuitive technology performed exceptionally. We used a TomTom
GPS device and it was loaded with one of our favourite coffee shops, Tim Horton’s, from POIFriends. So when we visited the U.S. for the weekend, the TomTom easily displayed every Tim Horton’s on route – an effective tool for those of us stricken with a mix of wanderlust and caffeine addiction. It’s easy to admire the benefits of POIs simply sorted onto a digital map without going through the trouble of fumbling with those archaic print maps.
Digital Journal spoke with POIFriend co-founder Bill McLean to find out the main appeal behind a website full of everyone’s favourite venues.
: What does POIFriend.com want to become?
: We want to create a point-of-interest community that’s all about connections people have with what’s important to them. When a POI becomes compelling to a person, it’s great to have an environment to share that with other people.
We believe we’ve created a website with the most enhanced ability to comment on and share and rate POIs.
: What do our preferred locations tell us about ourselves?
: You can share an aspect of yourself by allowing someone else to relate to your locale. Listing the places important to you is the highest level of expressing yourself, in my opinion.
: Some criticism of sites like yours centres on potential errors. Bars suddenly close, businesses move to other streets and so on. How does your site stay updated?
: The most compelling aspects this community is that it’s 100 per cent user-defined and maintained. We include the functionality to allow for interaction and suggestions. If a locale is off by block, or located on the opposite corner of the street, there’s a very simple interactive tool to send an update to the originator saying the venue is incorrectly listed or no longer at that spot.
: I’ve noticed some companies have premium placement on the site, listed under the “Official” category. Tell me about corporate-sponsored listings.
: We have a mechanism in place to create a commercial relationship with businesses. If an organization wants to provide additional info within their profile or offer more support to a certain group, we can create the facility to do that. Paying corporations will be listed first in certain groups but it’s clearly defined that these listings are sponsored. We realize since our inception that it’s important for visitors to known exactly what they’re looking at.
We also wanted to make sure there wasn’t any advertising on the site. We want the experience to be as clean as possible.
: What new features are in the works?
: There is greater user acceptance of cellphones so we want to be in lockstep with that request and have that functionality available. Also, we always listen to our users because they define the experience going forward. If that means features like photo or video uploads, we’ll consider those possibilities.