This afternoon, after much speculation, Facebook introduced their location based service called “places”. Launching tomorrow as part of the Facebook iPhone app (and also available on the touch.facebook.com site for mobile devices that can support HTML 5). Facebook now lets users check into locations and share that information with their friends. Extensive details for privacy control show that Facebook spent a lot of time doing their homework on this effort that will likely allow them to avoid the negative repurcusisons that affected Google with their launch of Buzz.
This is an important announcement as it establishes Facebook immediately as not only a credible player in this space but arguably the most important player. I’ve argued in the past the features such as “check in” are more of a feature than a standalone service and therefore the idea of integrating this directly into Facebook, already a key hub of social activity makes sense. The fact that Facebook is also offering an API for others to tap into means that there’s now a good foundation and framework in place that sets the stage for Facebook to bring both brands and local retailers in very quickly.
While the meme of “_____ is dead” has become popular in recent days on the internet, Facebook’s entry doesn’t mean the immediate death of other location based services. It will, however, put much more pressure on them to evolve, differentiate in meaningful ways to offer value to users. Even with that, it’s likely we’re going to see some consolidation in this space over the next 12 months.
The intersection of mobile and social networks is having a transformative effect in a year where almost everything is in the process of evolving in the mobile space. It’s therefore no surprise to see Facebook making the necessary investments needed to stay at the center of users social network experiences. With the ability to leverage their 500 million plus user base, Facebook has gained instant credibility in what was becoming a crowded market and reinforcing their leadership position as the core social network for users.