Thursday, August 19, 2010

Where are we headed?

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!!


  1. I'm not falling over myself with panic just yet. For example when you check in on Foursquare it is quite easy to just include an @ of the people you are with.

    Anyway we'll have to see what the inevitable backlash to this is.


  2. Yep, very much in the wait and see camp as well.

    Of course there's always the ability to use facebook lists and keep some friends to limited profiles, not seeing location tags...

  3. I think this new move for Facebook comes as something naturally part of their evolution. Foursquare is substantially growing so why not integrate this new service?

    BUT, as you mentioned this should be treated very carefully, I already can see some big privacy issues. Looking forward how this will go.
    Already my twitter stream is filling with people's thoughts on this matter.

  4. it looks like foursquare will integrate to facebook, but not the other way round.

    Like you said, looking forward to see how this works out...I'll be keeping an eye on my settings though!