Facebook Places is a major new geo-location product from Facebook that, starting tomorrow, lets U.S. iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad users “check in” to a business location so that friends can see where they are. Further, users can tag friends with them when they check in, which cross posts the location to the friend’s Facebook account. Users can also see a list of people who’ve checked into the same location, even if they’re not a friend.
Each location has a “Place” page where users can add comments and even read comments posted years before. For example, 20 years from now, your children might see your photos and read comments you added when you visit a beach later this year. In a sense, all of the memories that in the past were associated with dusty photo albums on a shelf can become living interactions online.
How do I know? Facebook holds few press conferences, but this evening about 50 press members and a few dozen invited, local Facebook users gathered at Facebook headquarters for the launch of Facebook Places. Frankly it was one of life’s rare moments when I felt I was present at the beginning of something really big. Ironically, I’d been to the building decades before when Hewlett-Packard, a company known for its engineering excellence, owned it. Facebook Places is the kind of product that Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard would have admired—an innovative new business that’s poised for major growth.
There are currently several Internet location networks like Gowalla, FourSquare, and Booyah, but these have just a tiny fraction of the number of users as Facebook. Early speculation was that when Facebook added location services, it would crush these competitive services. Yet each of these companies was present this evening and explained how their services integrate with Facebook Places.
As Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg explained, Places is designed to do three things: help you share where you are, see who’s around and to discover new places. Using a new “Check in” button lets you see a list of places, primarily businesses, which are near you and are most relevant to your interests. If the place you’re at is not on the list, you can add it, which creates a new page for that place. Entries made on a Place page are distributed to your list of friends like a Facebook Newsfeed.
Facebook Places differs from other geo-location services in that it lets you tag any friends with you as you check in to a location. Friends can remove tags that give their location and privacy settings let friends opt out altogether from being tagged.
The Facebook Places product will be rolled out gradually to all U.S. based iPhone users over the next several days, starting tomorrow. A new Facebook iPhone app incorporating Places will be in the iTunes App Store tonight. Blackberry and Android users will have their own location enabled Facebook apps soon, though no delivery date was announced.
Generally, I write about aviation news and trends and I expect Facebook Places to be widely used by pilots with smart phones. What I really like about Places is the ability to look at the app and see friends who are nearby. For example, next year at EAA AirVenture, I’ll be able to look and see what friends of mine from around the country have checked in at the event. Likewise, I’ll probably check-in at different airports, making it easy to see if any friends happen to be there. As a seaplane pilot, conceivably I could check in on Facebook Places to see comments from other pilots about a particular lake.
MyTransponder.com pioneered some of this type of capability. It is a social network for pilots and more recently it has added features letting pilots list airplanes they fly, trips they’ve flown, and tag the trips with photos and comments. Facebook Places lets you add photos and comments to specific businesses like airports, though it won’t provide a logbook of trips you’ve taken.
I’m sure my grandfather never guessed that I would acquire his flying logbook decades after he died and pore over his entries. Perhaps decades from now, my progeny will go to Facebook and relive an internet-based version of my logbook complete with comments, photos and in-flight videos.
Years from now, I think we’ll find that Facebook Places transformed our lives in amazing ways. And I’ll remember that I was there the day it began. So how do you think pilots will use Facebook Places?