As a sea of reporters, journalists and bloggers were squeezed into a presentation room at Facebook HQ this evening, Facebook announced its “Facebook Places” capability.
There are three components to this first release of Places: (a) you are able to share where you are; (b) you can determine where your friends are; and (c) you can discover new places around you (by relevance, not just by location).
When you check-in to a venue, you can also say who is there with you. This will work similar to photo tagging and status update tagging where it will link to the tagged people and will also notify them. They can remove the tag/reference if they wish. You can only perform the tagging when you are checking in (not after the fact). You can add/define new venues at any time.
There are a number of privacy controls for Places so that you can customize who can discover where you are or have been, etc. They default to “Only Friends” (not everyone).
Places is being rolled out to U.S. users first, over the next few days, and then to users of other countries over time. Places will be available on an updated iPhone app tonight.
There is a Places API which is being rolled out in stages: (1) read check-in info; (2) write/generate check-in entries; and (3) search nearby locations. Phase (1) will be available tomorrow.
Four “Places Partners” took the stage at the announcement and each talked about their integration with Places. The partners were: Foursquare, Gowalla, Yelp and Booya! (who talked about a new service called Crowd-In which is half geolocation, half game).
So, one of the big questions tonight is: Is Places a replacement for, or a so-called “killer” of, Foursquare, Gowalla, etc., or will integration with Places provide enough differentiatable features in these third party environments to sustain them after Places grows among Facebook’s half-a-billion worldwide users? I can understand announcing integration with Places as a temporary survival technique, but one wonders if Places will be the only one standing two years from now?
Facebook waxed on about further grandiose plans for subsequent versions of Places, but let’s start by seeing if this first version is widely accepted by users or if there is any backlash from users due to any real or perceived privacy or other concerns after the first few months of use. It should be interesting to see.
by Doug Braun, @BraunDoug, of @Emerge2