I’m going to launch a snap-judgement on Facebook’s new Places feature, merely because I haven’t used it yet.
I echo Dennis Crowley’s comment that if Facebook wants in, then that means location will be a big platform for a while. That’s a good thing for foursquare and others like them.
But I am a bit nervous for foursquare. They were the only location-aware platform that is a Facebook “partner” that didn’t get early access to the Places API. This means foursquare is the only one without any integration into Places right now. (Well, not in development, at least).
But here’s the thing: I don’t think many people will leave foursquare for Facebook Places. Will lots of people use Places? Of course! It’s Facebook, that’s how it goes. If Places does anything, it will keep some people from joining foursquare. However, I’m willing to bet the majority of those people wouldn’t have ever joined foursquare in the first place, so it’s sort of a moot point.
Most people right now think sharing location data is a breach of your personal privacy, hence PleaseRobMe, and the wealth of blog posts whining about it. Most people hide foursquare check-ins that appear in their Facebook News Feed, and I see people whining about foursquare check-in tweets on Twitter daily. Right now, location is a niche and foursquare is at the center and top of that niche right now. They’re offering an experience not available on any other social network: not Gowalla, not Yelp, not BrightKite, and not Facebook. The gaming aspect is better, the integration with real-world businesses is better, and they’ve already got a huge database of tips and tags and categorized venues.
A lot of people are worried about Places killing foursquare. To them, I ask “When has Facebook ever killed anything?”
When Facebook changed their stream to echo Twitter’s, people said it would kill twitter. Twitter still has millions of users and more and more businesses and individuals are joining every day.
When Facebook launched its Marketplace, everyone said it would kill eBay and Craigslist. Does anyone even use Marketplace? And eBay and Craigslist are still going strong, and Craigslist is inching more and more into the public consciousness every day.
Facebook has been reported as the largest photo sharing site. Flickr, Picasa, and Photobucket are all still flooded with millions of images and users.
Facebook has also been reported as the largest video sharing website. YouTube and Vimeo are, like the photo sites, filled with millions of videos and users and grow every day.
When link sharing came to Facebook, people thought it was the end of bookmarking websites. Delicious is still huge and has millions of links posted to it.
And here’s why: few people generate original content solely on Facebook. Facebook has evolved into a Grand Central Station of social data from your friends. They cross-post statuses to Twitter and Facebook. They import their blog’s RSS feed into Notes. They crosspost photos to Flickr, Picasa, and Facebook. They bookmark links on Facebook and Delicious, and share them on Twitter and Facebook. They upload videos to Vimeo and YouTube and then post the link on Facebook.
I see location data being the same thing. Foursquare users will start using Facebook Places, no doubt about it, but they’ll be using Foursquare to initiate that data.
To many casual web users, Facebook is the entire Internet. In some ways, it is: it has so many features that, if it had a better search function, you could theoretically find any info you need on Facebook because someone most likely has posted a picture, video, link, or status about it. It’s the Google of social networking and adding in location data is a natural progression. I see Places as opening naysayers’ minds to accept location data as an acceptable thing to share with their friends and it will likely open them up to more specialized services, like foursquare.
Foursquare is a giant in its niche and I don’t see that changing. Places won’t make your mom or dad start checking-in, and it won’t make privacy zealots start checking-in either. It will, however, make those on the fence give it a shot. I post photos to Facebook and always have (and still do), but one day I needed something better, so I started using Flickr. I suspect something similar will happen with foursquare.blog comments powered by Disqus