Landmarks sweetening social networks in emerging markets

Emerging markets are not going to utilize the same location based services as developed world for many years to come. There are many reasons for this: E.g. maps are not used in education, maps are inaccurate in many parts of the world, and not conveniently available. This needs to be taken into account in social networks.


Limited handset capabilities

One reason for the unavailability of maps is the very marginal penetration of smartphones. Less than 20% of the population in emerging markets have smartphones available based on VisionMobile:

Smartphone and feature phone penetration by region in 2011

Source: VisionMobile, Mobile Platforms: Clash of Ecosystems, November 2011


Smartphone sales is increasing in emerging markets but feature phone sales significantly outpaced smartphone sales in 2011 suggesting that the installed base of feature phones will remain strong for quite a number of years:

Smartphone and feature phone sales in millions by region in 2011

Source: VisionMobile, Mobile Platforms: Clash of Ecosystems, November 2011

Locating users

Landmarks have been proven to overcome the significant limitations in “the map approach” in emerging markets. Landmarks have been very successfully used in tracking applications and recently they have been deployed in mobile social networks that are purely focused on emerging markets. 

In social networks context, landmarks are close enough to each other so that one can express one's location fairly accurately, but far enough to “hide” exact location. Location will always be in a format that is relevant for the others but simultaneously provides enough privacy and social space if needed. The benefit is that they are known places (e.g. near Plaza de Concordia, Caracas, Venezuela) so one doesn´t need to be accustomed to maps and can instantly understand the location. Location is expressed in text format that is suitable to any type of mobile phone, not just smartphones. One of the concerns when sharing location is privacy. Landmarks alleviate many of these concerns as it is not exactly where one resides but a place that is nearby. 

Providing approximation of the location is one of the reasons why Eskimi chose the landmarks approach for its mobile dating service. Eskimi has over 5 million users in emerging markets and is adding 30,000 new users every day. It is the most popular dating service in Africa and South East Asia. Landmark approach protects the user from expressing one´s location too accurately but enables to be in contact with other users nearby. 

Landmarks will facilitate all social networks to offer relevant location services to the majority of the world population that resides in emerging markets. Landmarks approach mimics how the majority of the world already communicates about location.

Friday's Favorite Landmark: Phillip's Sanctuary

This is the third part of our Friday's Favorire Landmark series.

Riders: (1/3) Ryan Solinap, (2/3) Michael Solinap, both from Pangasinan, Philippines


Phillip's Sanctuary, Antipolo, National Capital Region, Philippines
Coordinates: 14.66123 °N, 121.19719 °E (Google Maps)
Favorited by: Albert / Datadev Team

Tucked in the mountains of Antipolo, is Phillip's Sanctuary, a 13 hectare property owned by the Pestano family. It's a haven that offers an escape from the confines of city life. With 7 bike trails crisscrossing each other, you will experience the adrenalin rush you’re longing for. We built this Dirt Jump with friends, and riding in Phillip’s Sanctuary has never been the same. We also got free entrance fee for 6 months!

Phillip's Sanctuary in Gecko SMS


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Friday's Favorite Landmark: Anawangin Beach

This is the second part of our Friday's Favorire Landmark series.

(Photo source:

Anawangin Beach, Pundakit, Zambales, Philippines
Coordinates: 14.87985 °N, 120.07011 °E (Google Maps)
Favorited by: Gilmer Bianzon / Datadev Team

This beach is situated in a cove off the coast of Zambales. I’ve spent most of my vacation in this lovely place. There’s no electricity or cellphone signal, accommodation is by tents only. It’s a perfect place to relax and get drunk all day.


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Friday's Favorite Landmark: Kaitaisten Silta

This if the first part in a series of weekly posts where we show some of our landmarks that are interesting, fun, or just personal favorites.

 Kaitaisten Silta (Kaitainen Bridge), Taivassalo, Southwest Finland
Coordinates: 60.54869 °N, 21.51578 °E (Google Maps)
Favorited by: the undersigned

This is the last and longest bridge when driving to the island of Kustavi. For me it's a special landmark, because my family has a cottage really close to it.

The bridge has a really nice view, and going to the cottage this is the perfect place to check the weather and water conditions to see if it is going to be a good day for wakeboarding, kiteboarding, or what.

There is a separate platform for walking below the surface, and when I was a kid, we would be anventurous and walk across under the bridge. I think they have built fences and locked doors so one does not get to go there anymore.

Kaitaisten Silta in Gecko SMS

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Hello world, what is a landmark?

Hello world, this is the blog for Gecko SMS.

We just released Gecko SMS for Android in the Android Market, and there was some brief discussion about the concept on Hacker News and on This chance to discuss the idea with people outside our little circle of geo-nerds made me see some weaknesses in our message. This blog is one of our ways to improve on that.

As the first post, I'd like to share our thoughts on what a landmark is. This is a fundamental thing for us, that's what we do: develop and maintain global landmark data and applications that utilize it.

But what does the word landmark really mean?

The Wikipedia-page on landmarks, makes a distinction between American and British English usage of the word: In American English the word is usually "used to designate places that might be of interest to tourists due to notable physical features or historical significance" where as "landmarks in the British English sense are often used for casual navigation, such as giving directions".

Without taking any sides on the language of choice, we definitely go with the latter understanding: landmarks are not just places for tourists. They are anything that can be used to define a location in an widely understandable way, for example schools, shopping malls, buildings, corners of main streets, museums. Anything that helps you locate yourself and everybody locally knows.

Here is an example of a landmark that is highly useful for giving directions in Makati, but definitely not a "must see" for tourists visiting Manila:

McDonald's H.V. dela Costa, Makati, NCR, Philippines
 Coordinates: 14.56070 °N, 121.01790 °E (Google Maps)

(BTW, today they had very cute girl behind the counter, and the 25 PHP Sundae tasted extra good because of that!)

So that is how we define a landmark.

Check back later on this blog for other examples of cool landmarks, and more information about what we are doing with this data.