Facebook has launched its long anticipated location-based networking app called Facebook "Places." According to Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder, Places was designed to do three things:
- Share your location
- See who’s around you
- Discover new places and where you want to go
Zuckerberg said he was keen on allowing Facebook users to have serendipitous meetings, share moments in their life by leaving messages at certain locations, and see what messages friends have left behind.
Is this much different than what we see now from other social networking apps? Well, apparantly not because Facebook also introduced that some of its partners that will be helping the company and its Facebook users to bring value to sharing location-based information. On stage with Zuckerberg and Facebook product manager Michael Sharon were Scott Raymond, Gowalla co-founder, Holger Luedork from Foursquare, Eric Singley from Yelp and Keith Lee, the CEO of Booyah. The objective to integrate all of these social networking apps that already employ location-based "check-ins" into Facebook and allow Facebook users to leverage the gaming or communication aspect of those platforms. If you are a Foursquare user and you want to check in somewhere, you can simultaneously broadcast your location and message via Facebook as well. This is similar to what you can do now with Foursquare where you can broadcast your location and Tweet it at the same time.
As for the privacy issue, Facebook addresses this by setting default privacy settings high (opt in and less sharing as a starting point) and to "opt in" or share their location when they want to. See the Wall Street Journal’s Walter Mossberg and his assessment of the privacy controls since he obviously had a "heads-up" on Facebook’s announcement.
When you "check-in" with Facebook, you are presented with a "newsfeed" or notes from others, friends and those who’ve made their notations public, who have been there previously. And you can upload photos, Flickr-like, with a location tag.
Someone asked Zuckerberg about monetization now that location was embeded. His answer was less than specific. They’re "looking at it" was basically their response.
My take: I couldn’t be less impressed. Most of the news conference that was broadcast live at about 5:20 p.m. PT (nearly an hour after it was scheduled) was confusing and disjointed. Facebook, by allowing the other location-based social net players into their domain has just created a scenario for a bar room brawl between Yelp, Gowalla, Booyah and Foursquare, essentially saying "may the best ‘check in’ win." As the 800 lb. social net app in the world, Facebook has the luxury of gathering its minyons of newly annointed location-based "friends" to test how this whole location thing will play out. Facebook is "Google-like" in its approach to location. In short, Facebook "punted" on location. The company didn’t know quite how to respond to the competition (Foursquare, loopt, et.al.) so it let others into its sandbox to duke it out. Will Facebook Places 2.0 be better?