17 Sep 2010

New Facebook Places app ‘checks in’ to UK after US launch

Social networking site Facebook rolls out its location publishing application Facebook Places in the UK following last month’s launch in the US.

Facebook Places is a smartphone application that enables users to log-in and tell other people where they are. They can also make comments about that place or ‘tag’ any friends who are also there.

It works by getting users to ‘check in’ at a location, say a museum or cafe, which then shows up on their Facebook profile and tells their friends they are there.

Users can also see if anyone else they know is nearby.

As well as letting friends share their locations with one another, the application has another function, allowing local and small business advertisers to tap into a new advertising market and help Facebook compete with arch-rival Google.

Too much information?

The upside of Facebook Places is that users may find someone they know is close by and so meet up, however critics warn that if not used carefully, vital information could be given away.

The risks of publishing too much information on social networking sites were highlighted earlier this year when burglars ransacked a house after the occupants left a message on Facebook saying they were away.

Basically it’s crowdsourcing – you get other people to do your research for you, so as a business model, it’s very cheap and can be pretty effective. Mike Butcher, editor Techcrunch Europe

Thieves broke into the house in Cambridgeshire, after spotting a message on Facebook. Police said the case should serve as a warning to internet users about the kind of information they posted on the web.

Facebook Places joins a growing range of social networking apps such as foursquare where users earn points for checking in at locations. While foursquare boasts three million users globally, Facebook already has half a billion users worldwide who could potentially use its application.

Mark Mark Zuckerberg launches Facebook Places (Getty)

Smart business model

Although it seems like a fun activity, Mike Butcher, editor of the Techcrunch Europe newsblog told Channel 4 News he believes users are doing Facebook’s work by providing details of their habits, the places they visit most often and what they think of them:

“It will provide information which will help Facebook create more targeted advertising and enable it to charge a premium.

The flip side is that we get information about our friends and family and information about services and providers for free.

“Basically it’s crowdsourcing – you get other people to do your research for you, so as a business model, it’s very cheap and can be pretty effective.”

He thinks it will be a welcome addition to the social network family because of its simplicity: “Facebook Places is probably the simplest of this type of application. “There are other similar apps which are based on reviewing places or playing games as you move from place to place, but Facebook is all about sharing and so sharing your location is just another piece of information to share on your Facebook page.”