With the launch of Facebook Places, one of the established major social networks has finally taken on the mantle of pushing this technology out to the masses to see exactly how far it can go.
According to the video stream of the launch from Facebook HQ, they plan to implement places in the same way they have photos – with the tagging API and features playing a key part. Users will be able to check in to a location and then tag the friends they are there with, with the ultimate aim of painting a picture in the news feed of where they are, what they’re doing and with whom.
The benefits are that we can link it to the friends we already have, the status updates and news stories we already create and essentially extend what we do, rather than somewhere like foursquare where we have to get used to a new platform (albeit a very simple one).
Consider the way Apple took a platform we were all comfortable with (iPhone/iOS), and extended it (iPad); it seems Facebook has done the same.
My major (and as yet unaddressed) concern is whether it allows individuals ultimate control over their own check ins. Foursquare for example allows you to check in to a location and THEN links you to who you’re there with. The link only happens after you check in; therefore you have chosen to make your presence in that location public with those people.
With Facebook Places allowing friends to check you in by way of tags (“I am in place A with friend X, Y and Z”) and this story appearing in your and their news feed, this element of control is removed. This could be a big thing, especially when facebook friend numbers creep into the 6,7 and 800’s and beyond for some. You may not want all friends to know where you are and who you’re with, but someone else could tag you and your cover would be rumbled. And from the way the privacy settings appear to be structured, you either opt in or opt out to being tagged.
Practically, it’s the way at a party you’re wary of what photos are being taken of you, knowing they will probably appear on facebook the morning after without you knowing. Are we now going to be wary of where we go too?
I look forward to seeing this in action, but it looks like it’s going to be a slowly-slowly approach to flicking the “on” switch to all these settings. There’s almost 300 facebook friends that will know where I am at all times. Tread carefully.
- On a side note, Chris Cox, VP of products at Facebook painted us a picture of how thanks to Facebook places, we will tag ourselves in places that in 20 years time our kids will discover and re-trace our steps and important moments in our lives. Chris: kids don't like befriending their folks on facebook!!