Facebook Places Takes Geolocation Networking to 500 Million

facebook-places-grabAmid great live streaming fanfare and back slapping, Facebook officially launched their location-based social networking application Facebook Places today.

TechCrunch were keen to point out that they spotted the product before the launch even began, but the fact that Facebook were working on geo-networking functionality has been a poorly kept secret for a while now.

So what exactly IS Facebook Places? Think of it as a combination of Foursquare and Gowalla but available on Facebook. Which is interesting because Facebook have *partnered* with both of these supposedly rival companies. More about that later, but for now, here’s how it works:

How it Works

You need to download the latest version of Facebook’s iPhone application OR if your mobile browser supports HTML 5 and geolocation, you also can access Places from touch.facebook.com.

Open the application of your choice and tap the “Check In” button (sound familiar?). A list of nearby places will show. Choose the place that matches where you are and check in. If it’s not on the list, you can add or search for it. Your check-in will show up in the Recent Activity section for that place and also create a status update from you in your friends’ News Feeds.

Who Else is Here?

Similar to tagging a friend in a photo, you can tag other Facebook friends who happen to be with you during check in and include a status update about what you’re doing at the location.

The “People Here Now” section allows you to stalk check what other Facebook users have checked in recently to the same place. Facebook suggests this is a way for you to meet like minded people, but I can imagine this feature becoming a privacy issue for some. Thankfully, Facebook have provided a way for people to opt-out of being shown in the People Here Now feature.

Does it Make Foursquare and Gowalla Obsolete?

Given that the check-in and recent activity features of Facebook Places are nearly identical to what Foursquare and Gowalla currently offer, there was some talk about whether there was room in the market for all three geolocation services.

However, both companies have worked with Facebook in the past and both were invited to partner with Facebook Places. Staff from each even spoke at today’s launch about their partnership. But let’s face it, what choice did they have?

Apparently, both Foursquare and Gowalla are going to allow users to publish their check-ins to their Facebook feeds and even transfer their pins and badges to Facebook Places. I’m sure the carrot of Facebook’s 500 million members was a tasty one, but you have to wonder if this will mean long term redundancy for Gowalla and Foursquare.

Privacy Issues

Having learned from their mistake with the profile privacy settings, Facebook have given users more privacy control over Places. You can only tag your existing Facebook friends during check-in and your check-ins will only be visible to your friends by default, although you can change this to public.

Just like removing yourself from a photo tag, you can remove any Places tag or check-in or tag. You also have the choice to turn off the ability for friends to check you in at Places. To do this, go to your Privacy Settings and turn off the setting to “Let Friends Check Me In.”

Facebook Places is currently only available within the US but should roll out to more countries within the next few weeks.

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Bing Proves Power of Facebook Advertising

In a single day, Bing has increased the number of fans of their Facebook page by 500 percent. How? By using clever social media advertising embedded within the popular Facebook application Farmville.

The advert appeared yesterday inside the game Farmville, encouraging players to become a fan of Bing in exchange for free farm cash (the virtual currency used within Farmville). As an incentive for players to act, Bing positioned themselves as the ideal search engine to help them win the game with tips and solutions for how best to use their crops and animals. Probably the cleverest part of the promotion was the fact that users could fan the Bing page without interrupting their game.

As a follow up, Microsoft’s social media team then set about creating dedicated updates for Farmville users on the Bing Facebook page.

The Bing Facebook page started the day yesterday with around 100,000 fans and that figure is now well above 500,000.

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Dumbass of the Week: Facebook Users

DuhOh boy, you’re going to love this one.

It all began last week when Read Write Web, (a very popular blog based here in New Zealand), published a post about Facebook’s new partnership with AOL called FB Wants to Be Your One True Login.

Apparently the post started ranking in the top Google SERPs for *facebook login*. Nothing wrong with that so far, it makes perfect sense given the post title and TrustRank the site has built up in Google.

BUT, all these strange and inappropriately angry comments with excessive use of exclamation marks began appearing on the RWW post.

Comments like this:

“When can we log in?”

“I don’t like the new facebook. Why fix something that isn’t broken. this really sucks..”

“I just want to log in to Facebook – what with the red color and all?”

“Quit this crap and let me sign in!

“All I wanted to do was LOG IN TO MY FACE BOOK ACCOUNT! I don’t like this new way! “If it an’t broke why fix it?”

“Can we log into face book? This is crazy I want to get all my info off and be done with this.”

“How do you get in?”

“I just want to get into my Facebook page.”

“This is such a mess I can’t do a thing on my facebook . The changes you have made are ridiculous,I can’t even login!!!!!I am very upset!!!”

“I was just learning,why would you mess it up?”

“All I want to do is log in, this sucks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

“The new facebook sucks> NOW LET ME IN.”

RWW staff were confused at first, but then it dawned on them. Instead of bookmarking Facebook.com or entering www.facebook.com in their browser address bar like anyone with half a brain, all these commenters were apparently typing *facebook login* into Google whenever they wanted to login to Facebook and then clicking randomly on one of the results. The RWW post just happened to be the one they clicked on.

Having arrived at the Read Write Web post about Facebook, they somehow thought it WAS the *new* Facebook, despite the completely different color, design and the very clear Read Write Web heading at the top of the page. Not only did they think they were AT Facebook, but these commenters, in their hundreds, somehow managed to ignore the post itself, work out how to comment ON the post and leave their inappropriate rants about how much the hated the *new* Facebook. Except for one commenter, who claimed he liked the new design.

As the hours wore on and the page rose even higher in the Google results for *facebook login*, the comments became even more inappropriately angry and amusing:

“I WANT THE OLD FACEBOOK BACK THIS SHIT IS WACK!!!!!”

“I am going to delete my account (IF I CAN EVER LOG IN) as this SUCKS BIG TIME ! If this does not get back to NORMAL you are going to lose a lot of folks who hate this and as you can see from all the comments they think it sucks too !!! facebook was great for connecting with old friends …now, NOT SO MUCH. SO HOW DO I LOG IN?”

“Bring me back old facebook this is sheet”

“I HATE THE NEW FACEBOOK PAGE , IN FACT I HAVE STARTED TO VISIT IT LESS, BECAUSE IT IS A HASSLE”

“Who’s idea was this?? Hope he’s not too big to fire cause he just LOST a bunch of faithful users. Chances are it’ll never be the same as it was before….cya”

“I’m going back to my f*ckin space u ass holes have to f*ck up a good this !!!!! dumn asses

To add to the hilarity, a Facebook user called Laraine (bless her heart), found a new way for Facebook users to solve their *problem*:

“For those of you that want to get in face book now just go to Bing..put in face book and search (or it will pop up) hit on face book login and it takes you  to your password page…i did it…. if this ever gets back to normal I will use the address bar from now on…..”

Read Write Web added a big bold paragraph to the original post stating *This site is not Facebook* and wrote a new post addressing the issue called We’re Still Not Facebook, but they continued to be bombarded with flames. It’s a little something I like to call The Walmart Effect.

There are two morals to this story:

1) There should be some type of study done on the correlation between IQ and the use of exclamation marks.

2) You need to design your web site and your software for the lowest common denominator.

I’m reminded of Damian Conway’s fantastic presentation at Webstock Web 2.Overwhelming – 22 Ways to Frustrate Your Visitors where he amusingly drilled into us that the majority of our web site users are NOT geeks, they’re NOT tech savvy and as this example shows, Dumb User Errors (DUE) are terrifyingly commonplace.

Make your stuff embarrassingly easy to use, because Dumb Happens.

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Facebook Implements Their Version of Twitter Retweet

You can now share your Facebook friend’s posts in a similar manner to the way you retweet a post in Twitter.

According to Mashable, Facebook rolled out the new feature called “Via” yesterday. It lets you repost a friend’s shared items with attribution. The Mashable post explains how it works:

“To try it, just go to a friend’s posted item in your news feed, click “share” and you’ll see a “via [your friend’s name]” (with an option to remove it). Once shared, the item will appear on your profile, with a via link that points to your friend’s profile. Your friends will also see the item in their News Feeds, creating the viral loop that is the Twitter (Twitter) retweet.”

The feature is only active for posted links and not other items such as status updates or photos. Also, you’ll only see the *share* link on newsfeed items that are posted for public view (i.e. based on the privacy settings set by the Facebook friend who you are quoting).

The new feature is now live for all Facebook users.

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