Tag Archives: Gowalla

Facebook Places – An Initial Reaction

Facebook Places Icon, courtesy of mashable.com

Last night around 7pm Jamaican time, Facebook made THE announcement. Facebook Places was here. For months, I watched the rise of Foursquare in Jamaica. It still cannot be described as popular, but continues to grow. Many predicted that Facebook would be copying Foursquare with a location-sharing tag soon. Now it has happened –  I will be able to know where my Facebook friends are…at all times. Scary!  When I was training for the SouthPole Trod, I would update my location after I had left the place. It was dangerous to let people I was all alone in the midst of the Blue Mountains.

Nevertheless, Facebook pushed forward and, as predicted, launched Facebook Places last night. Places is an application that allows you to see where your friends are and share your location. You can tag your friends in the Places you visit, and view comments your friends have made about these Places.

The real story is not only Places per se, but the model of cooperation on which it is based. All the various facets of the geo-location social media world have partnered on this one – Foursquare, Yelp, Booyah, Gowalla. The social media world has shown us that collaboration and cooperation can bring great reward – a truth often lost in our hyper-competitive world. But with all these companies working together – is this the social media version of a takeover? Are they cooperating themselves out of existence? I am watching, like many others, to see if they will all survive this integration.

Of course, the privacy issues abound.  Already the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) has released a fact sheet of sorts on the privacy issues behind Facebook Places (http://bit.ly/9Hps3H). You will be able to tag friends at a location, know if they are nearby and know where they have been. The main issue is whether you can opt out of being tagged, and being tagged by other. The reaction online shows that Facebook’s previous privacy faux pas continue to follow it (http://bit.ly/9HjrcX). Even with foursquare, many people check -in and still hide their location.

My other reaction referred to the balance between individuals, and business on Facebook. This locational tagging feature, while being ‘sold’ to individual users, benefits business more. In an era, where I can be reached through my phone, my address (Google Maps), through email and now Facebook is tracking me too – privacy is important. It feels like everyone is wearing a tracking bracelet.

Businesses do not have these concerns. Businesses need to be found to earn. My business email signature includes my twitter handle, my phone number, my Facebook page, my address, and Stumbleupon and the list goes on. My private email has no signature!  Businesses, like Foursquare has done, can offer specials and discounts to customers nearby or to the 100th customer and the like. This integration with Facebook would allow for further development in that direction. The integration with Yelp is powerful – as it links a review system, with a reservation system and customer service system. The possibilities are endless. But for me the private user – it raises issues. I don’t even want my friends or even my own mother to know everywhere I go.

Then, despite complaining about Facebook Places, I am a little peeved that I don’t know when I will have access to it. “Only available  in the US” – I had forgotten that expression. American friends – how is it?  Moreover, the caution to use it with the latest devices smacks of tech elitism. We don’t all run out and get the latest phone , even when we can. Two words – remember Vista!

I am sure in the next few places will calmly accept my place in a world populated by Facebook Places – until then Facebook Places is definitely taking all of us to the very Endz of the Earth!