Facebook Places location-based social networking solution is finally a reality

Posted on August 19, 2010

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(Fierce Mobile)- The long-anticipated Facebook Places location-based social networking solution is finally a reality–Facebook unveiled the service Wednesday evening, enabling users to share their current whereabouts in real time via mobile device. Integrated into the latest incarnation of Facebook’s iPhone application and also accessible via touch.facebook.com on any mobile browser supporting HTML5 and geolocation, Facebook Places gives users the option to share their location by checking in at real-world destinations–the solution also identifies contacts who’ve chosen to check in nearby. Check-ins will create stories in friends’ News Feeds and also show up in the Recent Activity section of the location’s Facebook page.

Facebook stresses that users control how much Places information they share–consumers are given the choice whether or not to share their location when they check in, with updates limited exclusively to existing friends. Users can also tag friends who are with them, although those users must first activate the Places service–if a user is tagged, Facebook sends a notification to that effect. The service also offers a series of more restrictive, customizable privacy settings. For now, Facebook Places is limited to the U.S., although additional markets–as well as other mobile platforms–are in the pipeline.

Although Facebook Places ostensibly rivals up-and-coming location-based mobile services like Foursquare and Gowalla, both startups tell The New York Times they see the new service as a complement to their own efforts. “We’ll wait to see what the product looks like, play around with it and see if its something we want to integrate with,” said Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley, while Gowalla CEO Josh Williams said he envisioned Facebook Places as “an opportunity for additional distribution of our service,” confirming Gowalla will integrate its application with the new initiative. Local search solutions provider Localeze also announced its Enhanced Business Registry, featuring 14 million business listings, will be featured in Places.

Facebook is the most popular mobile application across rival smartphone platforms according to survey data issued in June by The Nielsen Company. Thirty-nine percent of smartphone owners use the Facebook app every 30 days–it is the most popular app on the iPhone (used by 58 percent of consumers) and BlackBerry (39 percent), and the second most popular on Android (51 percent). Facebook recently reported that more than 150 million users worldwide actively access the site via mobile device, adding that consumers who use Facebook on their handsets are twice as active on the site as non-mobile users.

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