Facebook just now announced Facebook Places at an event at its headquarters. Go ahead and read our post summarizing the new feature and the event and then come back here.
Without using the as-yet-unreleased iPhone app or the interface at touch.facebook.com (which of course you can access from any browser as well as the iPad, etc), one thing that jumps right out at us is that Foursquare certainly didn’t dodge the check-in bullet. In fact, they basically stood right in the line of fire and expanded it to include no only checking yourself in, but checking your friends in too.
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Was this a mistake or has Facebook just knocked off all the other other check-in services?
First of all, the idea that you can check your friends in along with yourself by default, like you tag people in photos (if that is in effect how it works) will most likely be switched around to off by default – at least for Facebook’s and its users sanity sake, we hope so at least.
As far as going right after the check-in space, this was what most people thought was inevitable, but frankly, we’re still a little surprised at how up-front Facebook is with it.
From the iPhone screenshots we saw (see below) the check-in button is front and center and certainly not an after thought. Facebook is making now qualms about it – it is now a check-in service in its own right.
Yes, Foursquare, Gowalla, Yelp and other services will integrate, but then question really falls to which social graph you want to share you check-in with. If you’ve built a specific social graph around the idea of checking in, are you going to now just change your behavior to share with your Facebook friends? Well, for current check-in services users maybe not, but Facebook is clearly not all that concerned with those users (it’s got 490 million or so other users in mind).
So the question now becomes “who gets that to claim that first check-in?” Not where that check-in is shared, mind you – we’ve been able to share check-ins on Facebook for a long time.
Nope, it’s who owns the check-in now – because the owner is the one that will be able to sell services and advertising off of that check-in. Startups can claim that what counts is what’s on top of the check-in, but the check-in itself is the key starting point, and Facebook is clearly making no bones about grabbing check-ins starting tonight.
Hard to look at this any other way.
That said, there are a few risks here for Facebook that providing such a straight-on check-in service poses. First of all, as we said above, the “checking your friends” in thing will need to be seriously revised.
Secondly, Facebook is going head-on with startups that have a lot more experience in this field than it does (not that that obviously deterred them much).
Finally, beyond the checking other people in issue, with Facebook going after the actual check-in, it is taking full responsibility when people check-in, and considering the rough year it has had with privacy in general – as well as the length of time it’s taken to roll out this feature – we’re a bit surprised that Facebook is willing to take all of this responsibility on itself. No doubt, this is a bold (though not overly innovative) move for the largest social network in the world.