Google Latitude, the location-sharing service launched in February 2009, will be axed as of Aug. 9, the search giant announced this week.

A feature of Google Maps, Latitude allows users to share their location with a group of friends they granted permission to. The location could be broadcast from a smartphone’s GPS coordinates, a PC’s IP address geography information, or even just be set by the user (in the image above, I’m escaping Toronto’s muggy summer heat via a virtual trip to Antarctica.) Google says it will remove the feature from the Android app, remove the Latitude app from Apple’s App Store, and all Latitude contacts will be deleted.

I remember being enthused about Latitude when it was first released. I liked the idea that I’d be able to share my location with my family and a close group of friends. I imagined serendipitous encounters where I’d see my friend happened to be around the corner from me, then we’d text each other and meet for coffee. Location sharing also seemed like a feature businesses could take advantage of, say to manage a fleet of couriers delivering packages around a city, or just to see if someone running late for a meeting will be there in the next 10 minutes.

But Latitude creeped people out. Despite the privacy options, the idea of broadcasting your location as a blinking dot on a map just seemed to go beyond the comfort zone of most.

Google is still trying to find a way to make location sharing work. While Latitude is getting the axe, Google+ will feature location sharing. Users can check-in to locations on Google+ to more widely broadcast where they’re at, or they can turn on location sharing with specific circles of contacts. Turning on Location Sharing will publish the location information from your device to the contacts you trust. The feature is available already in the Google+ Android app and coming soon to the iOS app.

Save your Latitude contacts

If you rely on Latitude and have built up some contacts that you don’t want to lose, there’s a way to transfer them to Google+ and continue sending your coordinates. Full instructions are given by blog Google Operating System, but here’s the basics: Just visit this Google Contacts page and export them to a .CSV file.

Next visit the People section on Google+ and click the “connect services” button in the left sidebar. Import the .CSV file you’ve just created to a new circle, then enable location sharing for that circle.

Did you use Google Latitude, or another location sharing service? Let us know how you find it useful and how you manage your privacy with these services.

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