updated 10:25 am EST, Wed February 4, 2009
Google today expanded its mapping service with a social component known as Latitude. The feature lets either smartphone owners, Chrome users, and those running a special iGoogle gadget identify their current locations to friends or to track their own friends both for coordinating meetups or to follow them on trips. Users can send e-mail, Google Talk, SMS and status update messages to others directly from Latitude; calling is also possible on phones.
Privacy is considered a central focus of the service, which is strictly opt-in; users don't have to reveal their positions to certain users and can enter a preset location to mask their real positions.
Latitude is available immediately in an update for Google Maps Mobile on BlackBerry OS, Symbian S60 and Windows Mobile smartphones that have either native GPS or assisted positioning. Android-based phones like the T-Mobile G1 will have the software in a few days, while the Google Mobile App for the iPhone and iPod touch should also receive the feature "very soon."