So I know I am not quick out the starting blocks with Facebook places but being where I am (in Australia) we tend to lag behind a little bit. Last week Australians everywhere got to use facebook places for the first time and although I already use Foursquare and can therefore see why Facebook would want to tap into this, I have my reservations as to how well they have implemented the concept.
Foursquare itself is very popular and although I haven’t used it that often (mainly due to my phone) I enjoy checking in and reading tips people have left. Now, with talks of the great location based data that can be extracted from it, companies are keen to utilise it whenever possible. So of course Facebook would want to jump on the bandwagon, they are like the Google of social networking after-all (until Google Me comes around anyway) but have they really got it right?
I have to say my first impression is that it hasn’t really been integrated into Facebook very well. When I asked the question to everyone I am linked to on Facebook and Twitter Damien Basile (http://addieu.com/) seemed to share my opinion suggesting it was just ‘plopped’ into facebook without any real integration. It isn’t even very clear where you would go to start using it, and for those that have never used a location based service like Foursquare before and don’t think there was any real explanation as to why you would use it. Hence why I think people in my feed that have used it tend to have ‘<Insert Name> was at Bed’.
So Where Has Facebook Places Failed?
One thing that really bothers me is that there are no incentives to check in, for instance you can’t claim mayor-ships like Foursquare. I know that in reality being a major means nothing but people get a sense of pride for receiving these statuses and it makes it easy to see who is likely to be a brand ambassador for certain businesses. Damien also mentioned to me that it’s apparently a nightmare to claim your ‘Place’ if you’re a business, especially one with multiple locations. Add this to the fact you can only check-in with your mobile and you have basically taken a strong 500m community and limited it to about 2m people. Finally, with people on different devices such as Android and iPhone Jenna Langer mentioned she hadn’t tried it yet because there is no app on Android (at time of comment). All this kind of makes me feel like they rushed it without really thinking about launching it properly to be user friendly and accessible. Since Foursquare check-ins can be set up to land in my facebook feed, they have given me no reason to use it. The final thing, which is what really concerns me, is the privacy issues involved. With Foursquare I can chose who gets to see where I am checking in. With Facebook, not only can your friends check you in if you don’t change your settings but when you do ‘check-in’ EVERYONE that it is your ‘friend’ can see it. I don’t know how comfortable I am with that, I would like to restrict a little bit who gets to know where I am. Although Justin J Moses made a good point in his comment to me that like sharing our photos and thoughts with complete strangers, sharing our location may just become another concession we make with our privacy. In my opinion, location can be a risky thing to announce – especially if you live on your own normally and announce you’re in the city at a cafe. Perhaps you might just want to update your status with “I’m not at home; my house is free if you want to rob it”.
The Future of Facebook Places and Location Based Services
There is no doubt that with smart mobile devices to outnumber Desktop/Laptops by 2014 that there is a huge potential market, with great marketing opportunities for businesses (especially local ones). I think that if Facebook can integrate Facebook Places a little better, introduce incentives for people the check in and make it easier for businesses to claim their location, they will be a hot contender to overtake Foursquare. I think that if Facebook can get it right, the information that can be extracted from Facebook Places, due to the nature of the other information you already divulge elsewhere on the site, will make it much more attractive for businesses to use then other location based services. Which begs the question, will Foursquare sell whilst they have an attractive number of users? And who would jump at that opportunity first, Facebook or Google? My prediction . . . Google may just see the benefits of having Foursquare on board for the launch of Google Me.
What are your thoughts on Facebook Places and the future of Location Based Services?