It was just a matter of time before it happened, so when Facebook announced yesterday that it was introducing a location-based service the digital world was not surprised. What was a bit surprising was that on the stage with Facebook during the announcement were representative from foursquare and Gowalla – seemingly Facebook’s prime competitors in the mobile check-in world. Apparently they will be using the Facebook Places API to push their check-ins to Facebook Places. Seems like a smart partnership for all parties.
So what exactly is Facebook Places? From what I have read and the videos I watched, it is a very basic location check-in service, much like foursquare. You go to a restaurant or store and “check-in.” Your phone’s GPS or Wifi detects your location and shows you the places nearby. You then select your location (if it is on the list) and “check-in,” which will then show up on your Facebook page and in the newsfeed of your friends. Each place you check into will have its own page on Facebook and people will be able to check these pages for comments on the place and to see who is checked-in there (some privacy concerns!).
A unique feature for Facebook Places compared to the other check-in sites is the ability to tag the friends that are with you in your check-in post. Your friends will need to accept your tag for it to appear on their page and in their newsfeed.
Of course the biggest advantage of Facebook Places has over other check-in sites is their huge network. With over 500 million users, Facebook Places clearly has a large built-in network to grow through. I certainly expect it to become incredibly popular. And of course businesses will want to be sure they have a strong Places page. Facebook is even reaching out to businesses encouraging them to build their Places profile, and then of course link it to advertising.
Right now the Facebook Places application is only available in the U.S. and on the iPhone, but Facebook said they plan to expand to more locations and mobile platforms soon. So are you looking forward to Facebook Places coming to your phone?