Facebook Places launched

Social networking behemoth gains geo-location
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Facebook announced the launch of new functionality which adds location sharing but only to users in North America.

Facebook Places now allows Facebook users to create pages based on specific geographical locations in a move which is expected to be popular among consumers and advertisers alike but which calls into question the continued viability of location based social networking sites like Foursquare and Gowalla. 

"To get started, you'll need the most recent version of the Facebook application for iPhone. You also can access Places from touch.facebook.com if your mobile browser supports HTML 5 and geolocation," wrote Facebook representative Michael Eyal Sharon on a blog update

"Go to Places on the iPhone application or touch.facebook.com site and then tap the "Check In" button. You'll see a list of places near you. Choose the place that matches where you are. If it's not on the list, search for it or add it. After checking in, your check-in will create a story in your friends' News Feeds and show up in the Recent Activity section on the page for that place."

Pre-empting the inevitable questions of privacy and abuse, Facebook announced that users would be able to report location pages if they violate the company's statement of "rights and responsibilities". 

Yet most commentators agree that while Facebook has come late to the location-based party, the mass audience will likely deliver critical mass for the feature in a way which others have struggled to attain.

"With these sorts of incentives and a potentially hot new feature that's will be put in front of hundreds of millions of Facebook members, what advertiser and business wouldn't want to create a Places page?" asked Tech Crunch.

"The worst portrait of Facebook is people at home just looking at pictures of other people having fun. This is exactly the opposite. This is a very participatory, real-world kind of thing," Facebook vice president Chris Cox told BBC News. "So much of the interesting stuff in our lives happens in this small amount of time and we want to make that come alive."

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