Facebook has had its own version of a Foursquare style check in system for ages now, but given that just about everyone including myself still calls it a “Foursquare style check in system” suggests they’ve failed somehow. Given how many users the social networking giant hosts each month one would have suspected the in-house solution would have picked up critical mass by now, but somehow it seems to have stumbled. Now according to reports, Facebook has acquired Foursquare competitor Gowalla for an undisclosed sum.
The mood might be a little glum at the Foursquare and Gowalla offices today. Facebook is said to be readying new location sharing features for the popular social networking site. The launch is expected in late April. The user agreement on Facebook was updated in November to include language about the privacy of user location updates. The company also indicated that any location sharing features they might roll out (wink, wink) would be an opt-in service.
Early indications are that the location tools will come in two flavors. First, there will be an integrated ability to share your location via status updates. Secondly, Facebook will create and API for app developers to use to add location awareness to their apps. Advertisers would place high value on locations data for even a fraction of Facebook’s 400 million users.
The usefulness and possible consequences of this feature are still unknown. We hope Facebook will tread softly, having learned their lesson from past mistakes (coughBEACONcough). Though, what about app developers? We all know some apps can be on the shady side. Are you comfortable sharing your exact location with developers?
Do you think mobile location-sharing service Foursquare is pretty cool, but you live out in the suburbs? If you answered that with a resounding ‘yes’, it’s your lucky day because Foursquare is now playable anywhere. Users can now user their mobile phones to “check-in” no matter where they are. Previously, the service was limited to a few dozen metropolitan areas.
There are currently official applications for iPhone, Android, and WebOS, with a Blackberry app in the works. Increased adoption of these apps will be key to helping Foursquare fend off challenges from Gowalla, Brightkite, and Loopt. Gowalla’s game-like interface is the closest to Foursquare, and they are rumored to have a big pile of venture capital money they can bring to bear.
Most existing users of Foursquare won’t notice much of a difference. The service will now use a given radius to determine which friends’ check-ins to show you; it previously just used the Foursquare supported metro area. Special badges will still exist for specific cities, but the general ones will be available everywhere. Have you used Foursquare? Does it best the competition?