Raz Schwartz Ph.D.

Senior Insights Manager
Innovation Product Area Lead @ Spotify

How Facebook Places will bring location based services to the mainstream

It has been a week since Facebook announced the launch of their new service, Places. In a nut shell, Places brings the integration of location into our Facebook accounts and displays a Check-In notice on our wall, just like a status message. The service has launched gradually throughout the days and now more and more users can use this new functionality on their smartphone.

This new service wasn’t a surprise to people that deal (work, fund or research) social networks since the word about its development  was around for quite a while now. Nonetheless, the press conference that was held received a vast coverage both in US and international media. Many people, especially tech-savvy users, downloaded the new application with the built in location check in function and started using it. It didn’t took long for notes to appear on blogs and forums saying that there is nothing there.

People checked in while they were in a restaurant or a bar and the only thing that appeared was a status line indication accompanied by a small icon mentioning it was sent through Places. Dennis Crowley, the CEO of Foursquare, even called it BORING in an interview to the Guardian (and then said he was misquoted).

These voice can be considered as signs of disappointment or even worse (for Facebook) –  apathy.

But, when looking at the big picture I believe that Facebook is doing exactly what it should be. Instead of competing with shiny and fun services like Foursqaure and GoWalla, it tries to incorporate location services in baby steps. With a user base of 500 million accounts, the rolling out of something like location broadcasting can be a difficult service to explain. And the last thing Facebook needs is another bad publicity about its lack of user privacy.

Having that said, I am pretty sure that we will see more and more developments in this service which will in the long term incorporate location based services into our everyday activities. And with spread of this functionality, our physical location will take a pivotal role in our virtual presence.