Facebook has launched another service that will be wildly popular while garnering criticism at the same time. It’s called places and it is the newest feature available via an update to the Facebook iPhone application or by visiting touch.facebook.com from your GPS enabled smartphone.
Now you can share what you’re thinking and where you are when you are thinking it. This update is right along the lines of Foursquare and Gowalla which have become immensely popular among users and businesses.
Facebook is taking a smart approach to this which will help keep the negative spotlight dim compared to some of the privacy issues they have had to deal with recently. It is inherently “opt in” which means you will have to take an active role in telling the world where you are rather than automatically placing you while mobile. Furthermore, when you do decide to “check in” the location data is only shared with your friends and not the world at large, unless you choose to make it so.
Added features within Places are:
– The ability to tag friends that are with you. They are then notified of the tag and can check in themselves or reject it.
– Here now, which shows you other people who have publicly declared themselves in a particular location.
– Instant deals, should businesses and marketers make offers available to people who check in – much like the offerings already offered via Foursquare.
This may not be as big as other Facebook initiatives considering the small percentage of users that are GPS enabled – totaling about 40 million of the 500 million on Facebook as a whole.
Another first for Facebook is the incorporation of smaller partners by having Gowalla and Foursquare users share their locations on Facebook. This is contrary to the “squash and absorb” approach they have taken in the past. They have gone so far as to avoid making this service overly feature-laden and clumsy to use or offering a clone of their competitors features.
A slow and steady approach is new for Facebook, but they seem committed to the overall move the mobile web is making to incorporate location-based services into daily life.