Gowalla, Foursquare, Yelp, Facebook Places, the list goes on. There's certainly no shortage of methods to tell people where you are and what you're doing while you're there. Startup Whatser, built on the SoGeo API for location-based apps, has jumped into the ring with a different approach to check-in services: to be useful.
Whatser is really about re-discovering the city you live in. Finding out about places to go to and feeling confident you’ll have a great experience when you go there, because it’s one of your friends’ favorite spots. Soon, we will also make it possible for users to follow their favorite brands and local businesses to find out about the latest updates, such as sales, offers, menu updates and new exhibitions.
Sure, it's great to know where your friends are all the time, but that doesn't necessarily translate to restaurant suggestions. Heck, I'm the mayor of the Subway across from my office, but that's because it's across from my office. I'd hardly recommend it as a "must check out" place.
So how does Whatser work to make the check-in atmosphere more useful, exactly? For starters, there's no actual checking in to place. Instead, you can "collect" a place as one of your favorite places. Similar to Gowalla, you can add photos and comments to the place once it has been added to your collection. As you and your friends are out marking up the town with your favorite spots, Whatser is automatically becoming a location-aware, friend-driven venue recommendation system. This gets really cool when you travel to places you've never been before, but your friends have been to. On vacation to Austin, you can see spots that your friends have been to and have raved about.
So, what's this have to do with APIs? Well, Whatser is built on SoGeo's location-based social-media platform. SoGeo lets developers build applications much like Whatser. You get POIs (points of interest), tagging, user POI collections, etc. If you're looking to build a POI-based app, check out the SoGeo documentation and check out the data available.