Location, location, location used to be the cry of businesses and realtors everywhere. Now it is the cry of those hoping to make some money from all this mobile connectedness. Last night, Facebook announced its location based service called Places. In addition to allowing users to “check-in” to a location, Facebook users can see who has been at a location, and with tagging can also drag their friends along with a check-in as well. For example, if Xavier and Sumocat end up at a strip club during CES 2011 they can check each other in for all their Facebook friends to see.
Of course that is raising the usual privacy hackles from some, and I’m sure we’ll hear some more about that as Places continues to roll out. Facebook is taking it easy with this one as some US users (it’s not available yet anywhere else) are able to work with the service, some can only see their friend’s check-ins, and some don’t see it available yet. Facebook swears up and down that you can tune your settings so that you can’t be checked-in unless you want to.
One of the interesting twists to the launch is that many were predicting that this was going to be the end (you know the dreaded “killer” meme) of existing services like Foursquare and Gowalla. That might still be the case but Facebook included both of them in the launch and has APIs available for other services to participate as well. Again, we’ll have to see how all of that works in the future.
Facebook has updated its iPhone app to include these features, and there is a touch mobile webpage for Android and I’m assuming other smart/superphones at the moment, which points to the mobile future. Of course everyone is betting on mobile as the future of everything.
The bottom line for Facebook and all of these social location services is this means potential revenue by using your travels, shopping, and other haunts you habit to advertise to you. Facebook’s huge member base gives them a big leg up when it comes to working with those businesses who want to reach out and touch you when you are out and about. And speaking of businesses, Facebook has them covered there too, with a “claim your business” process. If someone checks in at your business location, you can “claim” it, and then of course Facebook will contact you about advertising.
This might sound like a big commercial push and on the one hand it is. This wouldn’t be such a big push if there wasn’t money in it. But one of the Facebookers at the announcement last night talked about the power of being able to follow your story or a story of where you’ve been, or who has been at any location. That story of course includes reviews and comments about a location from those who have checked in, as well as photos and the like. I can see that, just like I see the novelty of the whole “check-in” game as it is currently played. But the real test of the utility and the bank-ability of these ideas is still a ways out and it will be interesting to see how Facebook’s big entrance into the game affects that timeline.