It’s official – you will soon be able to share your location with your Facebook friends.
The much awaited product ‘Places’ (very similar to Twitters’ geotagging API) was finally unveiled by Mark Zuckerberg last week.
The new location feature will have two aspects. Firstly, it will be a service offered directly by Facebook that will allow users to update their friends about their current location. Secondly, it includes a set of software tools (API’s) that third-party developers can use to offer their own location-based services to Facebook users.
Facebook have launched this new feature for three reasons:
- Help you share where you are
- Help you see who’s around you
- And see what’s going on nearby
While web based users will have to wait for this feature, it has been launched as a new icon/tab on the homescreen on touch.facebook.com and as a brand new iPhone app.
Clicking on the icon shows the user a list of friends (who have geo tagged themselves at various locations) including those who are nearby (this reminds us of Foursquare). As soon as the user ‘checks in’ they can see a list of places around them and can search for nearby locations as well. Photo tagging has also been enabled in this new app.
Speculation surrounding this launch by Facebook, is that they are trying to compete with location-based services like Foursquare and Gowalla. Those services already can link up with Facebook and tap its huge member base, a potential threat to the larger social network.
A lot of the success of this service will depend on how well Facebook can educate its users and how it implements this feature and the privacy controls around it.
The New York Times’ Nick Bilton gave us a hint to this new feature in March with:
Facebook has been trying to figure out how to add location data to its service without raising potential privacy concerns or negative feedback from its users, as it has in the past with new features and redesigns.
Users can control how public their ‘Places’ information is on Facebook through their privacy settings. The default for Places is “Friends only” which is certainly a great move by Facebook.
Facebook emphasizes that “Places is not about broadcasting your location to the world, it’s merely trying to enhance the social experience it already provides to users in a more engaging way”. What is certain is that it will be fascinating to see how Facebook users respond to this new feature in the coming months.