Facebook just confirmed the rumors that it’s launching a new location check-in feature. Company executives (including founder Mark Zuckerberg, who kicked off the event) said the product serves three main goals: To allow users to share their location with friends, to see where their friends are, and to discover new places.
Speaking at the company’s office in Palo Alto, Calif., Facebook Pages Product Manager Michael Sharon also emphasized what Facebook Places is not supposed to do: “It’s not about broadcasting your location to the world.”
Judging from the initial demos, it sounds pretty similar to what has been rumored, and should be familiar to users of location check-in applications like Foursquare and Gowalla. Using either the Facebook Touch website or the updated Facebook iPhone app (apps for other phones are coming soon, though Facebook declined to get specific), users will be able to check-in to their location, see where their friends have checked-in, and also tag other friends in the same place.
Because privacy is a big concern with location services (and Facebook has had privacy problems before), Sharon also talked about the sharing controls. Friends will have to give Facebook permission before their friends can tag them in location. And if you want to tag your friend at a location, you have to check-in there yourself — you cann’t say your friend is at a scandalous spot unless you say you’re there too.
Facebook will also be making this data available to outside apps through an application programming interface (API). It brought four partners on-stage: Gowalla, Foursquare, review site Yelp, and location startup MyTown. Foursquare’s Dennis Crowley told us the company needs to play with the API for a few weeks before deciding how he will use it.
For more details about Facebook’s vision for the product, you can read about Vice President of Product Chris Cox’s closing speech. You can also read the official details from Facebook.
[photo: Dean Takahashi]