Facebook just announced a feature called Places that is basically a rip-off of Foursquare, a geo-location service. The CEO of Gowalla – a Foursquare-like service – called this new feature a “an opportunity for additional distribution of our service.” Think again! The only thing Facebook is looking to complement is their own pocketbook.
One thing I find questionable about this service is the fact that you can tag friends as being with you at a location. I don’t want my friends to be able to tell people when I’m not at home, how far I am from my home, and my disposition (at a bar).
Facebook Places is not available to me at this point so I can’t try disabling this feature. I suspect Facebook will make disabling the Places feature difficult, just like they have with other “features.” The Facebook mantra: Launch now, worry about privacy later.
As an internet marketer I found it quite interesting that Facebook will “suggest” nearby places that I might like. Suggest when? While I’m there? A day later? A week later? How much information will Facebook provide to those suggested places? Will I start getting a lot of unsolicited “coupon” emails? How long before checking in somewhere equals a “like” on Facebook and a company added to my newsfeed?
Regardless of all the potential problems, I see why Facebook is going down this road. There’s a huge pool of mostly untapped potential advertisers. Places sounds like an instant – and huge – revenue stream, one that a small company might not be able to ignore. If you have a late-night restaurant near a popular bar district you could draw all kinds of new – and loosened up – patrons.