Facebook And The Implicit Location Check-in

24 Aug, 2011

A recent change to Facebook’s mobile application has social media, and location-based check-in pundits crowing today.

The mobile ‘Places’ feature is being phased out, although similar functionality will be available from the new version of the mobile app. You can add your location through a normal status update.

Some are even claiming this as a victory for location check-in services like Foursquare, Gowalla and (to a lesser degree) Yelp. Not so fast…

Check in on Foursquare

Facebook has done what they normally tend to do—something very smart and something rather sneaky. Facebook has realized, through the lackluster adoption of their Places feature, that there is little perceived user value in merely “checking in” to a location. While millions of early adopters are using Foursquare (the largest and most innovative in the location based check-in space), the average Facebook user (more representative of the mainstream) isn’t as inclined to publicly announce their whereabouts just for the fun (vanity?) of it.

Notice that Facebook isn’t removing geolocation—they’re folding it into activities mobile users are already performing: sharing content (smart). Rather than the original model of explicitly checking in someplace, the mobile photo and status updates will implicitly identify and attach location data to content being uploaded by the user; effectively checking people in. Unfortunately, knowing how Facebook operates, you’ll likely have to opt out of announcing your location when posting content via your mobile (sneaky).

So, is this a win for the upstart geolocation apps? Not really. It’s Facebook changing the game because they are one of the few big enough to do it. The implicit check-in is the future.

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