Spatial Networking: Collaboration and Communication with People in Your Immediate Proximity

Michael Metcalf (Yahoo!)
Business & Strategy Ballroom F

In 2015, nearly half of the world’s adult population will be carrying a location-aware smartphone. Mobile apps like Facebook are already enhancing connections between those in our social graph. But what about communicating with people we don’t know?

We often have something in common with those around us: neighbors in the suburbs, colleagues at a conference, villagers at the weekly market. What happens when we enable those people to connect with one another?

The next revolution in communication will use proximity as the basis for collaboration: Spatial Networking.

Startups and VC have already identified the opportunity: Qilroy, MessageParty, ChatSq, and LoKast are already in the market. Incumbents with scale are poised to enter the Spatial Networking space: Nokia Instant Communicator, Apple’s patent for iGroups, Google Latitude, and Foursquare. Who will realize critical mass first?

I will discuss the future of Spatial Networking, the competitive landscape, the implications for privacy, the new business opportunities it will create, and our progress thus far at Yahoo! I will also consider the implications for networking based on user location:

• Spatial Networking helps expose the things we cannot see in the physical world. How will geography-centered communication inform first impressions, biases, and stereotypes about the people around us?

• Collaboration with those in our vicinity will create new efficiencies and help businesses reduce costs. Wait times for rides at Disneyland will smooth, traffic flows will self-correct, and travelers waiting for taxis at the airport will organize themselves based on shared destinations.

• Today our social profiles on Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. define us. But anonymity will be a prerequisite for safely communicating with those in our vicinity. What are the implications for enabling anonymous communications with those around us?

• Foursquare has mobilized young influencers, but Spatial networking will enable new audiences to organize and collaborate based on their location. What monetization opportunities will this create?

Michael Metcalf


Michael Metcalf represents product management for the Yahoo! User Location team. Michael has a decade of product experience in geo-fencing, location-based services, geospatial, geo-informatics, and geo-targeting. Previously, Michael worked at the CIA’s venture capital firm In-Q-Tel (an early investor in Keyhole and MetaCarta), founded a geospatial social networking web site, and led a web and data team at Corporate Executive Board. Michael holds an MBA from NYU Stern and served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Cameroon.

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