Facebook has launched its Places service in the UK, as the social network looks to take advantage of the growing demand for location-based apps such as Foursquare, Gowalla, and Google’s Latitude service.
The new tool allows users ‘check in’ wherever they are and see who among their friends and other Facebook users is – or has been – at the same location.
The move will also give Facebook a new channel for advertisers to target its audience by location, listing nearby businesses and attractions. Facebook will target the locations it lists to each Places user.
To ensure users privacy, Facebook Places has numerous privacy controls in place to control the amount of location information that is shared.
The service is currently available on Facebook’s touch mobile site and the iPhone app. The company is working on developing the application for Blackberry and devices running the Android operating system.
The firm has made Places’ API – the software that allows other programs to interface with it – available, so that Places will be able to integrate with existing location-aware services such as Foursquare.
Speaking at the product’s launch, Michael Sharon, product manager for Places, said: “We started seeing that in status updates people were saying things like ‘going to the gym’ or ‘hanging out with Joe and Sue’. We realised that this is something that people do every single day, telling their friends where they are.”
“The natural thing is to build a product that takes advantage of this and makes it easier, more convenient and more social for them to do what they’re already doing.”
The service allows people to access “Place pages” wherever they are, indicating local points of interest and listing people who are “Here Now” and friends who have visited the place.
Users can then “check in” to the location, making themselves visible to their friends, to everyone on Facebook, or to no-one at all.
The location information can then appear on a user’s wall and newsfeed; however, the default setting is that only Facebook friends can see the check-in.
As Facebook checks-in, will Foursquare check out?
Read Danny Meadows-Klue’s take on Facebook’s latest location tool, and its implications for the previous market-leader, here.
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