AdAge is reporting that we will very soon see some sort of McDonald’s app on Facebook mobile that allows people to check in – or at least associate their status updates – to McDonalds locations (see our analysis here).
For this to happen, Facebook will need to be able to map status updates to user location. Which means the functionality will be there for other brands / developers – and Facebook itself – to use in other ways.
Yes, Facebook location is coming, and it’s coming soon.
Does this signal the introduction of a venue focused, Foursquare-like check-in service? Or, as MG Siegler believes, will users simply be given the opt-in (or opt-out) option to associate their coordinates with a status update, like how Twitter is currently doing it.
At this point, we don’t know.
It depends on what exactly the word “location” means to Facebook. If it’s mapping to a venue, Facebook will be moving in direct competition with companies like Foursquare, Gowalla, PlacePop, BrightKite, Rummble, Buzzd, etc. But if it means a pin on a map, it might signal a willingness by Facebook to be the infrastructure layer that powers countless other third party developed native Facebook geolocation apps. Kind of like SimpleGeo for Facebook apps.
And then there’s the question of whether Facebook sees location as core to its platform.
If Facebook deems location as core to the platform, location would be in the same category of functionality as photos, messaging, and events. Ominously, how many third party apps do you use on Facebook for photos, messaging, and events? If you’re like me, none.
Facebook has decided to own these categories.
(Cue shivers of fear from the current geo startups.)
But the platform side of Facebook’s business might see more upside in letting a thousand geolocation flowers bloom, much like they have done with games. If they go this route, they will surely benefit from new breed of Facebook geo apps (such as the McDonalds one), buying advertising.
I don’t know which way it’s going to go. Facebook’s platform tendencies seem to be very strong, but location is such a fundamental element that it’s not inconceivable that Facebook might want to just seize it as their own.
Under duress, I’m going to say that Facebook is going to go the infrastructure route and give developers the tools to weave location into their Facebook applications. I think the McDonald’s app will be the pilot for this approach.
At least I hope so.