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Hidden in Google’s most recent update to its Maps for Android app is a new gamified element to its location-based check-in service Latitude which suggests it could be chasing down the likes of Foursquare.
People who use Latitude can now be ranked through a feature called Latitude Leaderboards.
Whenever a user checks in to a location, a small leaderboard appears, their points are tallied and added to their overall score.
The internet giant slipped out the update without much in the way of an announcement. In fact, the only acknowledgement it has given to the existence of Latitude Leaderboards is in the Google Maps for Android support section:
Now when you earn points from checking in at different locations, you’ll be able to see how the number of points that you have compares to your friends’ with the leaderboard.
Google also appears determined to integrate the feature into its social network Google+, saying that people using Latitude Leaderboards will be able to share their check-ins with their Google+ circles:
If you’re a Google+ user, you can share your check-ins with specific Google+ circles, as well as your Latitude friends. If you already had a Latitude account before, you can continue using Latitude as before, but you need a Google+ account to check in. You can learn more about getting started with Google+ in this article.
The fact that users who didn’t already have Latitude accounts now require Google+ accounts to check in shows how invested Google is in the social network.
Users can also exercise some degree of control on Latitude with Google+ as they can delete check-ins “by deleting the post from your Google+ stream”.