Facebook has just announced Places, their new location based feature. It seems pretty evident that these geolocation based services are the new social trend among internet users. The emergence of smartphones and mobile applications can be credited for allowing this to happen. While, Facebook isn’t the first company to dive into this realm (Foursquare, Gowalla, Loopt, etc.), it is going to be interesting to see how their network of 500 million users respond to this. Facebook Places will open up a tremendous amount of possibilities for developers, businesses and users alike.

However, there are a few things you are going need to know about Facebook Places before you decide to use the feature.

  • You are going to need a smartphone, specifically an iPhone. There are plans for Android and Blackberry versions of Facebook Places to be developed.
  • If you don’t have a smarthphone you will need to use the Facebook touch mobile site and have a browser that supports both HTML 5 and Geolocation.
  • Users will have to live in the U.S. Facebook has not announced any international launch dates yet.

Places and Other Geolocation Services

Facebook is allowing certain data to be available for all developers to access parts of Places. This will allow applications to pull information about people, locations and groups all right from Facebook Places.

As of right now, there are only a few applications that are pulling information from Places. To start, Gowalla, Foursqaure, Booyah and Yelp will be integrated with Facebook Places.

Places for Businesses and Developers

Businesses can use Places to give Facebook their location. Anyone can add a business on Places, but it will be up to the business to claim their place. Once your location is claimed, it will then turn into a Facebook page. However, Places can only be claimed by official representatives of that business. They will need to present some sort of documentation to verify their place.

Developers will be able to use one of Places API in their applications. Facebook will be launching a read API, which will collect data on checkins from indentified users, their friends and public data about Places. Facebook has also developed a Write and Search API (both currently in beta) that will allow third party applications to publish checkins and have access to Places data.

Are There Privacy Issues?

Mr. Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO, claims Places isn’t about sharing your location with the world, but more about finding places and then sharing them with your friends. Okay, so what does that mean?

Well, like everything you do on Facebook, your checkins will show up on your profile, in the activity stream and news feed. Also, it should be known that your friends can check you in without your consent.

Facebook has addressed these in their privacy settings, but like the rest of Facebook’s features you will have to opt-out or customize them to your liking. With all this information being shared by default it will probably be a good idea to adjust your privacy settings before you make a commitment to Places.

Even in its infancy Facebook Places is already setting the bar high for location based services. What are your thoughts on Facebook Places? How will users and businesses react to this new feature? Please feel free to leave a comment expressing your opinion.

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