Did the “check-in thing” affect your life so far? Or not yet! When they were first presented, location based services didn’t seem to be the next big thing! But now, I think they are.

This has changed a lot in how we use technology. Few years ago, we used to say that technology keeps you at home, and creates a virtual social network where you meet or interact with lots of people every day in different ways, but in reality, you’re still at home sitting on that same chair!!! Now things have totally changed.

Using our smart phones, we can now use technology on the go in our real-world social and professional life! That virtual world is kind of merging with the real world!! It’s like augmented reality but for social media.

I would like to call it the “Augmented Social Life”, because now our virtual social activities were added as a new layer on top of our real-world social life. Where ever you go, you can share “where you are” and “what you do” and all types of content using your smart phone that is with you all the time.

Foursquare (with 2.6m users up to last month) started this by simply allowing people to share “where they are” to get local tips of discounts and special offers from places they”check-in” to. Then Gowalla (less than 0.5m users) introduced the same service but was more travel oriented with its passport stamps to “discover the world around you”.

Then comes the MyTown (2.5m users), that introduced a Monopoly-like game around this!! So you can virtually own and rent places you check-in to and earn virtual and even actual money!!! Moreover, there are service providers inside the game who provide you with paid services to save you time and effort such as collecting your rents!!

Later on, Yelp, the famous review site introduced its own check-in service (with more than 2m users now). This makes much more sense than Foursquare and Gowalla because Yelp already has a wide base of clients (restaurants and shops) to offer discounts and special offers. I am sure that TripAdvisor and Expedia will soon provide the same.

Add on top of this the latest addition of Facebook, “Places“! Facebook (with 500 million users) , is offering its own basic check-in service in addition to an API that allows all other third parties (Foursquare, Gowalla, Yelp, MyTown, etc…) to offer more additional features .

Facebook Places is not only for check-ins, it lets you tag friends and share all kinds of content related to places that are special to you and your friends!

Back to the “Augmented Social Life”, facebook-places add your social life as a new layer on top of your physical world.

However, the biggest surprise for me was introducing the “Check-in Thing” to websites!! Yes, with Marginize you can check-in to a website and share your comments and reviews about it. It simply treats a website as a place you visit!

In the near future we may see a special check-in service for e-commerce websites to get discounts and special offers, and another one for Blogs, or for new websites, etc…

We may also see new MyTown-like games but for websites instead of places with a totally new in-game advertising mechanism of pay-per-check-in where players have to check-In specific websites to go to next levels of the game.

So isn’t this a next big thing?