The rumors were true. Today, Facebook steps into the location-based services (or LBS) arena with Facebook Places. Now everyone is watching Foursquare, the current king of LBS. Not to mention Google acknowledged receiving 100 million Google Map users every month. The mobile space is clearly heating up and here’s what you should know about it.
Despite high numbers, Google has not been able to convert users to its LBS platform, Google Latitude, into anything close to Foursquare’s avid following. Google Maps is a great application. However, their announcement falls short of the battle going on between Facebook Places and Foursquare.
So what does Facebook Places do? Just like Foursquare, Facebook Places asks you:
- Where are you going?
- What you’re doing at this place?
- Who are you with?
Nearby places are have an info box that displays the check-ins of others, also known as “Recent activity”. In design, recent activity works just like your news feed. New check-ins and comments will show up here.
As a privacy measure, you can opt-in to the “people here now” section. This displays people nearby or at the venue regardless of your “friendship” status. Facebook has partnered with Foursquare, Gowalla, MyTown, and Yelp, all major places in the consumer geo-location space. Currently there is very little venue info is listed. Unlike Foursquare, check-ins do not show a map icon in the Facebook news-feed. People can tag you with or without your permission, as with a photo and you can untag yourself later if you choose.
How Facebook Can Win
The Recent Activity section of any venue on Facebook Places is where I see Facebook rocking (robbing?) Foursquare’s cradle. Foursquare is a great platform for seeing where your friends are. Yet Brightkite, a competitor, is the best at helping you engage with the folks even when you’re nearby. Foursquare leaves the engagement up to you, which is ideal, but not reality.
Some people have to be coaxed into engagement. Facebook can do this and has the numbers to prove it. Their massive userbase could cause an onslaught of reviews, replies, conversations and more for any venue listed, more than any current LBS player. Facebook is also one of the best conversation platforms, which I think is a piece of the blueprint for a great mobile social network. It’s how LBS’ can be used to build better communities.
Where Foursquare Is Going Wrong
Foursquare’s hype has always frustrated me because they focus so much on brands, venues, and badges. It’s the people that make all of that worthwhile. I see little being done by Foursquare to encourage user engagement amongst each other. The engagements of Foursquare therefore become limited to the people you already know. Sure you can go check out someone’s Twitter profile, but that’s not the most ideal usage for Foursquare. Besides, it takes too long to load all of the info on my iPhone 3G.
To Check-In or Not To Check-In?
Is Facebook Places enough to move me away from Foursquare? That’s very possible. Why? Relationships, duh. The fact that Facebook hosts some of the most intimate connections, one might be more enthusiastic about seeing your Facebook friends check-in. However, Foursquare has built a strong community (or so it seems). Will the majority of their community move on?
Facebook Places is currently not available outside of the States. You can access it via the Facebook iPhone app (iTunes) or by visiting touch.facebook.com on your mobile phone.