Will Facebook buy Foursquare?

Will Facebook buy Foursquare?

foursquare and facebookFoursquare, the location-sharing social game that’s taken select cities around the world by storm, has formally announced that its API is open for business.

Why is this important? Well, now anyone can create an application that uses Foursquare’s location-centric social network to build all manner of exciting apps.

Examples Foursquare gives include everything from a simple app to find money-saving deals near you, right up to a zombie game, with enemies spawned when you check in at different locations.

There’s no denying this is exciting. With APIs already available from services like Layar and Yelp, we’re on the cusp of some very exciting developments in the location-based web. What about the big boys? Well, Twitter has its location service ready to launch any day now while Google has a limited API for its Latitude ‘see where your friends are’ service… but there’s one major name missing. Where’s Facebook in all this?

A major force

It’s all very well having the relatively small userbases of Twitter, Foursquare, Google Latitude and their ilk sharing their locations and having fun but it’s not until Facebook gets on board that we’ll see a real social change.

In much of the Western world Facebook is the one social network that unites old and young. Teenagers are one there, my 59 year-old Dad is one there. Who knows, maybe even the world’s oldest Twitterer is on there too. Even if you hate technology it’s almost a given that you have to be on Facebook because it’s how your friends chat and share news, photos… basically their whole lives.

Once Facebook allows you to open up your mobile app and see which friends are nearby we’ll have reached a mainstream acceptance for this technology. The question is, when will it happen? Well over a year ago Facebook appeared to be mulling the idea, mentioning it in a blog post announcing the original official iPhone app.

What’s holding them back?

So, why hasn’t it happened yet? For one possibility, let’s look to Facebook’s form on innovation. Facebook tends to let others break new ground and then take on the features themselves. Just look at FriendFeed – once the start-up had mastered the real-time news feed Facebook came in and bought them. Now, just three months later we have real-time Facebook news feeds that most people are happy with.

Foursquare is launching worldwide within the next few weeks. Once they’ve mastered worldwide social location sharing it really wouldn’t be a surprise to see Facebook swoop in and buy them up… and that may be sooner than you think.

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