Plazes.com relaunched today while everybody else was hanging out at the beach, having barbeque or crying with Odonkor. Good timing to deal with last-minute bugs, indeed. Plazes is something of an location enabler based on Wifi access points. It allows you to describe your unique location (Plaze) and then recognizes it through your router's MAC address.

How is this P2P? Good question - and easy to answer. Plazes enables people to use their location as an additional bit of information when it comes to personal publishing, putting photos on Flickr or various ways of discovery (a.k.a. hooking up). So it not only brings people together, but at the same time allows geographic collaborative media. Which might not technically be P2P, but it's definitely something I'd call social P2P. Using technology to make the net a two way street.

The relaunch itself was a little overdue. So many things changed in terms of mapping and location lately, and the old interface really wasn't up to it anymore. The folks at Plazes showed me an early screenshot of the new site design back at Etech, which was very, very Web2.0. Color fades, pastel, all the works.

Compared to those early attempts, the new Plazes interface almost looks like a Google service - and that's not only because the Google's maps are displayed very prominently. It's simple, makes use of big fonts and looks kind of square. Useful, but not pretty. In that it is a little bit like Platial.com, even tho the sites don't really look alike.

Upon login users are greeted with a dashboard that displays their location and discovered Plazes in their neighbourhood on a big Google map. Further down on the page you'll find buddies. A little too hidden for my taste, but then you can always get a list of them through your Plazes application.

The main theme of the relaunch is mapping,which seems to be a smart move. Plazes does't want to be a dating platform like Meetro, so they put the emphasis on the locations and not the people. Open the tab "Browse Plazes", and yoo get to see a map. Open "Browse People", and, again, you get a map. Of course you can get a list as well, but the mesage is clear: It's all about location.

One danger is that Plazes might take itself too serious. The previous website invited people to playful browsing - opening random Plazes that were displayed on the front page. The new site focuses on your current neighbourhood. Which makes sense if you are often at different locations. People working at home end up just seeing the same three or four other Plazes users nearby. It would be good to have some options for your dashboard. Some incentives to actually contribute to the system, some showcase of other Plazes.

I believe the real test fo Plazes will be how useful it is to other developers. The service will only grow to a useful size if others integrate it into their own services, which might be web- or application based. Or probably both. Once we see such integrations happen, the Plazes web interface will become sort of a backdoor. Like that admin area of your blogging software. It's not pretty, but it works.

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