About three years ago, I had a simple idea. I wanted an app to keep track of the places I’ve been. Naturally I’ve tried all the services for this, jumping from Gowalla to Foursquare to Path. But they all want you to broadcast your location, all the time. They’re focused on the experience of letting other people knowing where you are. There’s certainly value in sharing your location, but I wanted something that benefited me first.
I built a prototype of this app a few years ago, but it didn’t go anywhere. The secret sauce behind any check-in app is a database full of points of interest (or POIs, meaning places like businesses, restaurants, tourist attractions, etc.), and mine was no different. I didn’t want to rely on a free API of places that could evaporate at any time. Buying API access to one was prohibitively expensive. And shipping without one meant checking-in became a huge data entry process that was not fun. The project got shelved.
Then, a few months ago, my friends over at App.net announced a new API for finding POIs, and attaching metadata about places to posts and private messages. A few months before, they released an API for, among many other things, creating a private timeline of posts for individual accounts. I saw both a way to get a sustainable POIs database and cloud storage for check-in data.
And thus, Ohai was born.