Few Americans actually use location-based services.

Location-based services get a fair amount of attention in the media. But just 4% of online Americans actually take advantage of services such as Gowalla or Foursquare that allow them to share their location with friends or to find other people who are nearby. So say the findings of a telephone survey on use of location-based services released Thursday by Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project.


Those who do take advantage tend to be young and mobile, Pew reports. Eight percent of online adults 18-29 use location services, more than any other age group. And 7% of folks who tap into the Internet from a mobile phone use location services. Among other findings: 10% of online Hispanics use the services, more than whites or blacks who are online. And 6% of online men use a Gowalla or Foursquare, doubling the percentage of online women who use such services.

As you might suspect, the social networking/status update crowd also report higher usage. Pew says that among online adults, 62% use Facebook, MySpace or LinkedIn. Of those 6% use Gowalla, Foursquare or other services of their ilk. And 24% of online adults use Twitter—of those 10% are using a location based service, more than twice the rate of the general online population.

Pew director Lee Rainie says the results reflect the classic “early adopter” story.

In an e-mail, Rainie writes:

The overall number of users of location services is likely to grow over time as new services emerge, as ‘networking effects’ take hold when more and more people see their friends adopting them, as businesses tie location awareness to bargains and other customer experiences, and as people become more comfortable with what location awareness might bring to them.

Via Technology Live