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Places, Please: New Facebook Location Service is Here


The new Facebook geolocation feature is here, and it is called “Places”. The new service will let Facebook users tag their status updates with where they are, “like”, and otherwise interact with Places. The new service isn’t meant as a competitor for similar services such as Gowalla or Foursquare, but will integrate with them.

Following along with the release announcement on the Facebook Innovations live stream channel we learned the following:

-Places has been in the works for quite some time (there were titters when Zuckerberg said it had been cooking for a few months)
-find out where your friends like to hang out
-you can tell your friends where you are, much like Foursquare, but connected through the much more widely used Facebook
-let the world know where you are hanging out, way to put markers on your life so that you can remember great trips, places and events

A brand new iPhone Facebook app has been released with the new Places feature on it. There will be Places pages, so you can comment and link your story to other stories about the same place, privately, with your friends. You can also see your friends who have visited. They were keen to point out that it wasn’t about “broadcasting your location to the world”, but rather just sharing with friends.

Places will now let you tag pictures and status updates with place names, in the same manner that you are used to tagging your friends in photos and status updates. Tagging will allow those without access to smartphones to still tag with the places that they have been and still participate in the Places community.

Next question: do we want everyone on our Facebook friends list to see where we are? This feature may lead to some more use of limited profiles on the site, for those who value their privacy, or don’t want Mom tracing every step. You can also choose to tag “Not Now”, which shows the place that you are at to your preferred friends, but doesn’t broadcast your location immediately to anyone else.

The default setting for Places is “friends only”, although you can open it up to the world if you choose. Importantly, in places, you can only tag your friends. You can’t tag the celebrity that you see doing body shots off of a midget, but of course the lack of tags doesn’t mean that others won’t recognize them. This is an interesting question as well; will Places tagging lead to more Facebook pics of ourselves that we don’t want online, even if we are unidentified in them? These, and other issues, will likely be hacked to death online in the next few days; for now, just enjoy the new feature and have fun with it. We know we will.

Scott from Gowalla was brought onto stage to talk about their hand in the Places app. For Gowalla users, he stated, the experience will be very much the same. You still get your passport stamps, and you can choose now whether or not to publish to Facebook. Gowalla is looking forward to the huge Facebook user base coming onboard as eager passport stamp collectors.

Foursquare was next up, with Holger Luedorf weighing in on how much it would add value to the Facebook user base. The gaming element that engages people is now going to go online to Facebook and as with Gowalla’s passport stamps, Foursquare is hoping that the user base of Facebook will embrace the social game and use Places to get onboard with their application.

Yelp is another partner that has gotten on board with Places, and now you’ll be able to catch up on reviews on the go with the benefits of Facebook tagging. While their apps aren’t quite ready to work with the Places API yet, they’ve got some exciting features coming where you can see where both your Yelp and Facebook friends are by pointing your camera at the world around you, which you have to admit, is pretty cool and Bond-like.

Check out more on the new Facebook Places on their official blog.

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