Flook: Location discovery for stumblers

Another Gowalla/Foursquare competitor, but this one comes with serendipity

Technology trends and news by Ronny Kerr
January 19, 2010
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flookThe location discovery market for mobile apps is starting to look like the social discovery market on the Web. In just the same way that Reddit, Digg, and StumbleUpon provide varying experiences for discovering and sharing interesting and cool sites online, Foursquare, Gowalla, and others may soon each etch out their own niches in the vast mobile market. And the similarities may not end there.

Flook, a new location browsing app for the iPhone, has a new perspective on the now-common mobile technology, one that mingles a bit of chance with just the right amount of system learning.

Essentially, the self-proclaimed "Serendipitous Discovery Engine" lets users swipe across their screen to see cards; cards, made up of a full-screen photo, a caption, and (of course) embedded geo-location, are created by users in the community, following the idea that people are the best discoverers of worthwhile places and events. The system learns, so that popular cards are the ones users will see first.


Because of the principles behind Flook, it's no wonder that the service has been compared to StumbleUpon, an in-browser social discovery application that learns what the user likes and what the user doesn't like, with the hope that future "stumbles" will more likely be something that the user wants to see.

Despite Flook's uniqueness, it will have a hard time competing in a heavily crowded space. Aloqa, Foursquare, Gowalla, and Booyah (which last week reached 450,000 users) are just four of the most popular applications competing to be the number one location discovery app on the iPhone. Yelp, too, just took a step into the space by enabling "check-ins" on its last update. On top of everything, Facebook, with its unbeatable network, could easily disrupt the market by expanding upon its geo-location features.

"We're building a new way of browsing the undiscovered, and we hope that users will build upon Flook’s world in fun and useful ways,” explains Tristan Brotherton, co-founder of Flook and Ambient Industries, a small startup funded by Amadeus Seed Fund and Eden Ventures. “We plan to open Flook’s API to third-parties in the near future."

Ambient Industries, a small startup funded by Amadeus Seed Fund and Eden Ventures, was also co-founded by Jane Sales and Roger Nolan, two previous Psion employees who contributed big chunks of code to Symbian OS. Sales and Nolan, along with Brotherton and Dave Jennings, who last worked at Yahoo in their Geo Technologies Group, have all come together under Ambient Industries to work on technology like Flook, which is the company's first application.

As with all apps of this kind, the strength lies in the community's numbers and activity. If Flook can build that consistent foundation base, its new take on social discovery could take off.

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