Facebook has moved into geolocation services with a new application added named ‘Facebook Places'.
Tapping into the rising popularity that has already been adopted by Foursquare, Places will initially only be available in the US through Facebook's iPhone app or by logging onto its smartphone site.
Michael Sharon, Facebook product manager for Places, said that the benefits are to share places users like or ‘discover moments when you and your friends are at the same place at the same time'. He said: “You have the option to share your location by ‘checking in' to that place and letting friends know where you are. You can easily see if any of your friends have also chosen to check in nearby.
“When you check in, you can also tag friends who are with you, just as you can tag a friend in a status update or photo. You can post an update along with your check-in to tell people more about what you are doing.”
He explained that the user remains in control of what they share and the people they share with. They can also choose whether or not to share their location and can only tag friends if their settings allow it and they are always notified when they are tagged.
Speaking at the launch of Facebook Places, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, said: “This is going to be a fun and interesting summer. There's a lot of product launches coming up this summer - they release them when they are ready rather than on a schedule. Today we are talking about our new Places product that we've been working on for a few months. We've been testing it for a few months.”
Speaking to BBC News, Foursquare's vice president of mobile and partnerships Holger Leudorf, said that far from being viewed as a threat to its future, he sees Facebook's entry into this arena as an opportunity. He said: “This will certainly put the spotlight on the check-in industry even more but I don't think it represents Facebook stealing our thunder.
“You see elements here that you see on Foursquare but this is more about validating that we are onto something and that this will be a much, much bigger thing going forward.”
Blogger Nick O'Neill, writing on the allfacebook.com website, commented that representatives of Foursquare were on the stage for the Facebook Places launch, but Leudorf did not announce anything, he just stood there.
He said: “Contrast this with Booyah who's already launching a new application, called InCrowd, on the back of Facebook's Places API. So why didn't Foursquare get early access to the API when Booyah did? I have no idea, but the only thing that I can conclude is that Facebook wanted to play politics while they watch Foursquare drown.
“They brought Foursquare on stage to give the perception that they were playing fair and attempting to support the company, but the only thing that was revealed was that the company had no detailed knowledge about Places.
“I don't want to pre-emptively say that Foursquare is about to killed by Facebook. However I'm not quite sure what value-add Foursquare brings to the table at this point. Badges? That already exists on Facebook. Perhaps check-in tips? Maybe, except that's pretty much accessible in the new Places product.”
Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, recently told SC Magazine that he thought that geolocation would be the next major development in social networking, calling it the ‘world where web'.
He said: “This is one of the growth areas and it is beginning to gain momentum. We have seen documented cases of people who posted statuses of where they were and then got robbed, while there are cases of physical violence.”
Tony Dyhouse, cyber security director of the UK Digital Systems Knowledge Transfer Network, said: “Location-based services have done a lot to improve our lives but people need to treat applications like Facebook Places with care. It's important to realise what criminals can glean from where you are not.
“The criminal fraternity can quite easily build up a profile that includes your address, if they then have confirmation you are not at home, it can be dangerous. My main concern here is that the default setting for the location application will be ‘on' – people need to be aware of the potential privacy risks associated with this.”