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Why Yahoo!'s Stalker 2.0 service is a turn-off

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While Yahoo! presses on with OneConnect, its creepy "Mobile Web 2.0" service, wiser heads in the mobile industry make a strong case why it's doomed to fail.

When OneConnect was launched at Mobile World Congress a fortnight ago, I described it as the best thing to happen to stalkers since the invention of the dirty raincoat. OneConnect lets you see who in your Yahoo! address book is near you and where.

"OK, they pay that chump how much to come up with losing ideas?" asks Reg reader Brian Saloum. "Where do I sign up for that kind of a job?"

"I'm going to go with the smart money and agree with you, this is going to be fairly to somewhat highly amusing to see this one implode. But it will be interesting to see how they try to cram this impending failure under the rug."

Another mobile industry insider lists a catalog of failures before offering the damning conclusion:

"The web boys don't get the mobile web at all - they think it's the Internet on a small screen. No guys, it just looks like that."

But the most interesting perspective comes from Mark Curtis, the CEO of a successful dating service, Flirtomatic. Three years ago, Mark published a sobering look at mobile technology Distraction, which now looks quite prophetic.

Flirtomatic has a thriving mobile element, but Mark points out that location-based real-time data was a turn-off

"Anything that tells you someone is closer than five metres feels intrusive," he says.

Moreover, location-based metadata has been one of the industry's red herrings.

"Over the past three years lots of people have said that the great thing is precise location-based stuff. Where you say, for example, "I'm in a bar in Soho and you can make contact with me'."

"But as soon as you run the numbers, it exposes it as a whole load of twaddle. Even with a lot of users signed up, say a million, the chances of meeting someone who matches your profile, with their phone turned on, in the same place as you, are negligable. It's not going to happen."

Yahoo!'s OneConnect looks like technology looking for a solution. Just because you can do something, doesn't mean you should.

There are instances where you can envisage selective "groups" might find it useful to locate each other - but these are limited. Says Curtis -

"I can see being able to track where my children are as being useful, but in most cases, that's not going to happen. My 17 year-old would rather have her hair cut off than allow me to track where she is. "

Flirtomatic makes location information opt-in and selective: 40 per cent of users have signed up giving the first two letters of their postcode. But so far, Mark's bet that "people don't want to know" looks like a good one.

So perhaps Creepware services like OneConnect have a useful side - they remind us how valuable our privacy and autonomy really is.

In the interests of fairness, we've invited Yahoo! to explain why the service isn't creepy - but they haven't followed up. ®

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