I’m at Facebook HQ in Palo Alto where CEO Mark Zuckerberg is on stage in a jam-packed room that more resembles a wedding or luau than a press conference. He’s now announcing Facebook Places. He says Facebook Places seeks to accomplish three goals.
- Helping people share where they are
- See who’s around you
- See what’s going on and discover new places and things to do
Now we’re watching a video about the rationale behind Facebook Places: helping you discover where your friends like to “hang out” or create opportunities for “serendipitous meetings.”
Now the product manager for Places is on stage. He’s reiterating the goals that Zuckerberg identified.
Places will be in the new iPhone app, launching later tonight. It will also be available on the “Touch” Facebook mobile site for smartphones. It’s going to allow users to conduct local searches — data by Localeze. (This was not announced, I know this however.)
There will be Place Pages on mobile and the web. There will be news feeds for Place Pages. There will be check-ins. There are some notifications and privacy controls built in.
It’s not about broadcasting location to the world but sharing what you’re doing with friends.
Each Places Page will feature photos, in addition to news feeds and comments. I assume that there will be individual business Places, comparable to Google Places. This could be quite a significant development for small businesses and CRM.
You’ll be able to “tag friends” (and “check each other in”) at particular places. This may create privacy questions. Facebook assumes this will all be consensual. It’s clear that location tagging is positioned as a differentiating feature. You can only tag your friends only when you’re actually checking in to the same place. (Push notification when you’re tagged; you can remove any tag.)
Lots of warnings and privacy controls built into Places so that people can control when they expose location. “We have a comprehensive set of safeguards in place . . . default check in is to ‘friends only.’” Can be further “dialed-down” to a few specific people. Can remove check-ins from news feed.
You can opt-out of having friends be able to tag. Opt-out is on privacy settings page.
Launching an API too. Partners can integrate Places into their applications:
- Read API — launching tomorrow
- Search and write API: publishing check-ins to Facebook and search for locations
Partners are being announced and coming up: Gowalla first.
Now showing is the Gowalla Facebook integration. On Gowalla when you check-in, you can choose whether to publish that check-in to the Facebook news feed. Photos can also be attached to Gowalla check-in and in turn published to Facebook’s news feed.
Next up (surprise): Foursquare. Speaker is stressing gaming as a differentiator on Foursquare. Impliedly acknowledges that check-in has reached “commodity” status. He stresses how Foursquare will innovate on top of check-ins. “We’re at the very beginning of a very exciting industry.”
Next up: Yelp
Speaker stressing Yelp’s check-ins growth. Yelp will be implementing API to “share on Facebook.” Yelp photos and data will be published to Yelp (iPhone and Android apps). Yelp will be integrating friends’ Facebook check-ins into Yelp in future.
Next up: Booyah/MyTown
All of them are here. CEO is discussing a new app called “in-crowd” that has a “full Facebook Places” integration. The app isn’t out yet, coming “very soon.”
Facebook says that everyone will get access to the API tomorrow.
Places product VP Chris Cox is waxing on philosophically about technology and its role in facilitating public social interaction. Technology can bring “alive” the physical reality of places. There was a very long fantasy scenario about the future and “human stories” vis-a-vis products like Places.
First question about monetization. Mark Zuckerberg responds:
For this first launch we want to “do three good use cases really well . . . including having a good partner API.” “Certainly you can imagine “a whole world of things that can get built” but Zuckerberg wants to defer any discussion of monetization until the future. But clearly there will be at some point.
Next is a technical question about APIs and the roll out.
Questions from the “live stream.”
Blackberry and Android releases? Yes, but no immediate timeline. Every Place Page has a link: “is this your business?” Small businesses can claim those pages.
Zuckerberg is discussing the challenges of making Facebook Places different. He points to Facebook Tagging as the thing that makes check-ins social and different. He also points to privacy controls as a differentiator.
You cannot check into something that isn’t a physical place.
Zuckerberg makes references to later stages of development for the product. And Q&A concludes. Now we’re into the Facebook launch party rituals. Now people are queuing to “hit the gong.