Perhaps you have heard of Facebook Places. If not, your one sentence summary is this: Facebook has introduced a new service that will allow users to “check in” to places and share their location with their friends.
The majority of speculation from those watching this roll out is that it is going to destroy other location based services like Foursquare, Gowalla, Whrll, Loopt, etc. I don’t think it will, and I’ll give you five reason why I think this.
First, let’s start with one reason, and one reason only,that Facebook Places might succeed: they have a user base of over 500 million. The sheer volume of that might let it see life into 2011.
Now, on to why I think Facebook Places is nothing short of “meh“.
- A terrible launch. The big announcement came in late yesterday afternoon to much fan fare. Twitter blew up with the announcement, and every social media news outlet ran practically moment-by-moment coverage. The noise was made, and people noticed. The immediate reaction was predictable, “I want to try it”, shouted the masses. But there was a big problem…nobody knew how or where to use it! In fact, out of 40,000+ total mentions that I tracked using Row Feeder, practically none of them actually talked about using the product; they only talked about the announcement and how/if this would affect Foursquare.
- Confusing Application Update. The official Facebook blog simply told us that it would be working in “the most recent version” of the Facebook iPhone app. According to my phone and the iTunes store on it, I did have the most recent version, but I still didn’t have “Places” anywhere on it. Once I finally did get the correct version today (which only described “bug fixes” as the update), I clicked the Places button as was met with a message that “this feature will be available in your region soon”. Just so you know, my “region” is Los Angeles. Perhaps you’ve heard of it, Facebook? I heard reports from San Francisco and other major metropolitan areas that it wasn’t available there either. Where did they launch it exactly…Duluth?
- Too Many Privacy Concerns. Let’s face it…Facebook has an issue with privacy, or at least the perception of privacy. When Open Graph was announced, everybody clamored to try and figure out how to opt out. Now that Places is here, most of the articles I’m seeing talked about are “how to” guides for shutting down Places and its sharing abilities. Facebook started off as a private network that has become increasingly public. Bottom line, I don’t think people on Facebook really want to share where they are all of the time.
- Too hard to “claim” a business. Sure, we have to keep squatters away, and having accurate business verification is important, but the process they are asking for is ridiculous. After you cerifity that you are an official representative of the business (reasonable) you are directed to a page where you are asked to fill out address, number, etc. and then upload official legal documentation like Article of Incorporation or a Local Business License (not reasonable). How many people are really going to do this? I see conversations going something like this:
Worker: Hey CEO, we really should claim our location on Facebook Places
CEO: WTF is Facebook Places?
Worker: A way for users of Facebook to check in and share their location with their friends. Can I borrow the Articles of Incorporation to upload to Facebook?
CEO: *blank stare*
All of this to say, I don’t think Facebook Places will take off. I know that everybody is predicting the end of Foursquare and other services, but as I recall from the battle of David and Goliath…David won. Just because Facebook has a massive user base, it doesn’t mean that everything they do will result in them taking over the market. Remember when Facebook changed it’s status updates and bought FriendFeed? It was deemed “The Twitter Killer“. Guess what? Twitter is still around.
My bottom line? Facebook Places was a fun product announcement to get excited about, but now it’s time to get back to reality. I’m going to start by checking in to my favorite local Alehouse on Foursquare.