Facebook launched a MAJOR new feature on their iPhone app yesterday, called “Places.” It’s a location based service (“LBS”) where you “check in” to locations, letting your friends know where you are.  If you use Foursquare, Gowalla or BrightKite, you are very familiar with these types of apps.  Or, if you have friends who cross-post their Foursquare updates to Facebook and Twitter, you may also know what they are (and may not have a positive opinion of them!).

Since I just got the feature enabled on my phone, I haven’t had too much of a chance to play around or think about it, so this post has just a few of my initial thoughts.  More to come soon, and I’m sure Facebook will be making a lot of changes along the way.

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Basics

When you’re on the Facebook iPhone app, where you normally type in your status update, you’ll now see a “map pin” icon, that you can click and it brings up nearby locations for you.  Just click the location, or tap the plus to add a new one, and then click “check in.”  You’ll notice that there is also a “Tag Friends With You” button, so you can say who you’re there with.  And, you can make a comment about what you’re doing there.

Facebook Places


Once you check-in, it automatically posts your check-in to your Facebook profile, and tags the people you’re with.  In addition, it creates a “community page” for the location you have checked in at.  A community page is similar to a Fan Page, but is automatically created by Facebook from information on Facebook.  Eventually businesses will be able to “claim” these pages, and manage them, but for now, you can’t do much with them.  BUT, your post shows up on that community page.

So, why would you want to check-in?  Well, it’s an easy to tell your friends where you are.  And, many Facebook status updates are about people’s location, so it’s a more descriptive way to do it.

Privacy

Always a biggie with Facebook… they assume you will share you’re information, until you turn it off.  In Twitter language, we call that #FAIL :-)  They’ve assumed 3 things:

  1. You want to share your check-ins with all of your friends
  2. You want to be included in “People Here Now” (shows who is at the location even if you are NOT friends with them)
  3. You give your friends permission to check YOU in to a location

Those are some pretty big assumptions, Facebook! To change them, do this:

Account –> Privacy Settings –> Customize Settings (small text link in middle) –> Under Things I share, the last 2 settings should be looked at.

AND

Account –> Privacy Settings –> Customize Settings (small text link in middle) –> Under Things Others share, the last setting should be looked at.

places privacy

The other consideration is what I mentioned above about Community Pages — your check-in ends up on the community page, essentially making it completely public information.  I don’t like that at all (stalkers can see where you hang out), but there currently doesn’t seem to be an option to change that.

Update on 8/24: There’s one more privacy setting…

By default, Places is set to share your location information with applications your friends use. If you want to change that, go to your privacy settings page –> edit your settings (under the “Applications and Websites” title, in the lower left corner of the screen) –> edit settings (next to “Info available through your friends”) and uncheck the box.

Will Places replace Foursquare?

It’s too soon to tell at this point. Why did people use Foursquare in the first place?  There are a number of reasons, and not all of them are currently satisfied by Places:

√ – Find out about new places

– Share your location with your friends

√ – Meet new people who go where you go

NO – Earn points and badges

NO – Get deals from local businesses

But, one of the biggest complaints I hear about Twitter is “I just don’t  have time to use ONE MORE social network”.  If that’s true, many people would not have wanted to use Foursquare, but since Places is integrated into the most popular social network, they may just be more likely to use it.

Apparently Places will be integrating somehow with Foursquare and Gowalla, but how that will happen exactly is yet to be determined.


Other random thoughts

For me, the biggest downside is that your Places check-ins automatically post to your newsfeed.  I’d rather just have it visible if someone goes to my profile, but not clutter their stream with all my check-ins. I didn’t like it with Foursquare, and I don’t like it any more here.  In addition, unlike other Facebook apps that you can permanently hide, you CANNOT hide Places.  So, you will see everyone’s check-ins, whether you like it or not.

I think eventually, probably sooner rather than later, Foursquare will die.  They have a good lead on Places now in terms of the deals and badges, but unless they keep innovating faster than Facebook, they’ll lose out quickly.

As with Foursquare, I was most intrigued about how it would be used from a marketing perspective, and it is proving to be a great way for companies to interact with customers. I think Places will start to serve the same role, but more on that in the next post!


What do you think of Places so far?  Will you use it? Why or why not?  Do you think they approached the privacy correctly this time?

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    • http://www.anthonyrussoblog.com/Anthony/ Anthony Russo

      Looks about like the integration I was expecting it to be. I have to play with it a bit to see how I like it. I never used Foursquare or anything for that “Don’t have time for another service” reason so might try this out. Good write-up.

      Anthony Russo
      http://www.anthonyrussoblog.com/Anthony
      Skype: anth.russo
      Twitter: @AnthonyRusso

    • http://www.rachel-levy.com Rachel Levy

      Thanks for the comment Tony!

    • Pingback: Found Friday: 3 great posts on Facebok Places and advertising | Hyten Content

    • Seema Lucitegirl

      I won’t use it. If I want someone to know where I am, I will tell them myself! I’m old fashioned like that.

    • http://twitter.com/timlorang Timothy Lorang

      Thank you Rachel, This was a good overview of FB Places. I haven’t had a chance to explore it and part of that is related to what you have been hearing, not ANOTHER social media app!

      With Foursquare you can choose to or not to post to FB already. Seems like FB is not really adding anything new just trying to get into the game.

      Tim Lorang

    • http://www.rachel-levy.com Rachel Levy

      I’m sure you’re not alone in thinking that! :-)

    • http://twitter.com/DAJUVI David E. Nicholas

      Good read Thanks for pointing out some of the issues.

    • http://dailyscoopon.com Wendy

      Thanks for the overview Rachel. I agree that this is just the start of sharing. I think of Facebook Places as a layer for marketers to tap into as time goes on. I think adoption will vary based on age demographics