Oct 3, 2010

Trading Places on Facebook.

Facebook Places was released in Australia on September 30.

Australian users can now opt-in to the application and share their location with friends much like Foursquare and Gowalla have been letting us do for some time. In light of privacy concerns the default setting is 'friends only'.

Facebook said Places would enable "serendipitous meetings" between friends who are near each other.

Stanley and Livingstone. Early inspiration for Places.

The U.S. launch was met with some expert concerns about 'Facebook Stalking' and the popular theory that Facebook represents some Orwellian threat to our individuality and privacy. Sensational reactions to new Facebook features are pretty common. There seems to be a constant tension between what users are comfortable with and where the service wants to take us. It's nothing new.

I've been a fan of applications that address the 'where' of social media for a while. If you're dashing about its often too much trouble to engage with your various networks more deeply than "I'm here (X)".

If you say: "I'm at the pool" people know what's happening for you. There's often no need to share how cool the water is, why you love floating on your back or what colour your towel is. If people know you a little they can fill in the blanks.

The interesting thing is, how Places (or Foursquare or Gowalla for that matter) will change our lives in coming years. The Facebook team has grand plans for how we will be using the application and the service at large.

Imagine being at the pool and checking in using Places.

Imagine being told which of your friends are there today and being fed photos of their recent trips to the pool in a combined album.

Imagine getting a feed to the last.fm tracks they listen to at the pool and to conversations auto-tagged with all pool updates by your friends.

Imagine being given a record of your swimming training over the past month and tips for today (through linking Places and any of the fitness apps you use). You may even want to see how many laps your friends are swimming (or not swimming).

You get the idea.

The way Facebook is linking up our own, and our shared experiences online, I can only see our networks of friends enjoy richer and deeper connections on Facebook.

I'll be excited to see how developers make use of it over coming months. Third party applications like Mob Zombies for the iPhone (based on Foursquare) can be a lot of fun.

Mmmmm, local brains.

With the data contained in our Facebook networks the potential for new and exciting ways to use it through Places will be huge.

More at a later date on how brands are using Places in Australia but in the meantime, if you're using Places, let me know what you think.

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