Facebook Places Puts The Pressure On Foursquare, Google Maps

By Perks |

2010 has been a big year for Facebook. Thanks to the introduction of an open graphAPI and the ability to “Like” almost anything on the web (not to mention a new movie coming out this fall), the social media giant has proved that it has the drive and the capacity to rule the digital landscape as we know it. And this week, Facebook launched a new location-based service that challenges the niche markets of startups like Foursquare, as well as the Maps arm of corporations like Google.

Facebook Places is a service that allows users to “check in” to restaurants, bars, retail stores and other local hotspots to share their location with friends. There are three main goals behind the introduction of Places, according to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg:

1. Share where you are in a social way
2. See who is around you
3. Discover cool new places to visit in the future

When a user checks in to a specific location, the update appears on the Place page for that venue, and is posted to the person’s own wall. One interesting aspect of the service, which we haven’t seen in other location-based offerings, is that Places allows you to check your friends in to the location you’re at, as well. However, if you aren’t into the idea of other people checking in for you, you can tweak your privacy settings to opt out of this entirely. Facebook put up a post on it’s blog with more details on the service.

Now that the service is live, the big question is how this is going to impact brands that exist on the platform of social location-based offerings. As opposed to the small niche services, the advantage for Facebook is that it maintains a database of more than 500 million loyal users who are familiar with the brand and how it works. Will people who check into Facebook Places still feel the need to check into Foursquare, as well?

And as a challenger of Google Maps, Facebook’s social component has the draw that no stand-alone map can live up to. While Google Maps aims to provide as much information about a place as possible, it doesn’t have the capability of also telling users who is there.

The verdict is out as to whether Facebook Places means the end of Foursquare and Gowalla as we know them, or if it will simply force these startups to look at other options to differentiate their product. Regardless, the introduction of Places is just one more way that Facebook is proving its place as leader in the social web.

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