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The market for location-based services is expected to top more than $13 billion in the next five years, and ABI Research said social networks like Facebook and MySpace could be a major driver of adoption.
As phones become more sophisticated and capable of accessing the Internet, mobile social networks are expected to grow. The research firm estimates that more than 82 million users will be connected to a social network on the go by 2013.
Facebook and MySpace are the leading social networks, and both are taking aggressive actions to get on mobile handsets. Facebook's iPhone application is routinely one of the most-downloaded, and a BlackBerry MySpace app was downloaded more than 400,000 in less than a month.
But neither of these social networking giants have integrated location information into their mobile apps, which has opened the door for smaller mobile social networks like Loopt, and Brightkite. But the research firm expects Facebook and MySpace to eventually integrate LBS features like friend finder, geo-tagging, and local search.
Integrating LBS could also potentially generate revenue for the social networks. While location-based advertising could eventually be a very lucrative, licensing and revenue sharing could provide Facebook and MySpace revenue in the near future.
"While growth will be mainly driven by the availability of multimedia-centric GPS handsets, other mobile form factors will also become important," said Dominique Bonte, director of ABI Research, in a statement. "Mobile Internet Devices with built-in GPS receivers have been announced, with location-based social networking site GyPSii supporting Moblin-based Intel Atom processor-powered MIDs,"
Bonte also said personal navigation devices could be obvious candidates for location-based networks. One example is Nissan's Carwing in-car navigation product, which allows sharing and ranking of fuel consumption in Japan.