Facebook & Geo-Location

Posted on August 19, 2009

Facebook needs to enter the geo-location / mobile social network game, and now is the time to do it. I wrote two comments today on M.G. Siegler’s (p)review of the new sweet-looking Facebook 3.0 iPhone App, and I felt this needed to be properly said.

Now, this app looks freaking awesome. Let me just say that. But I respectively disagree with M.G. one one thing: the most disappointing thing about the app is that it needs a map of where all my friends are (see image below, bottom-right). When I open up this app, it should ask me if I want to share my location. If I say yes, all of my friends on Facebook can see where I am. If I don’t, they don’t. My friends on Facebook are the people I want to share my location with, and this app should be the catalyst to share it (and THEN send out push notifications, rah!).

Here are five awesome reasons why Facebook should start to map mobile locations::

The audience is there and ready. FB and iPhone are both growing like crazy, and the app itself already has a huge audience: consistently in the top 25 free apps, over 100,000 ratings. And I believe M.G.’s word like gospel: this new app version will only make FB more popular on the iPhone.

Second, iPhone has geolocation that works. Not in the background mind you, but it doesn’t matter since people check the FB app so damn often. Everytime you open the app, it updates location (if you want).

Third, iPhone users are exactly the type of audience that first joined and popularized Facebook: affluent, techy early-adopters. And I tell you: if maps of friend’s current locations start showing up in Facebook news feeds, people will start freaking out. OK, some may not so positive, but I’m damn skippy that a lot of them will be. My point is that FB doesn’t need a viral channel to promote this: just stick it in people’s news feeds, and it will grow.

Fourth, big web companies, of which Facebook is quickly becoming, like to take baby steps. Take Google Reader, for example. Instead of just coming out with a kickass version 2 that blows people’s minds, it teases and annoys people with all these weird social features. Facebook seems to be doing this incremental feature thing as well; instead of taking Twitter head on and making all status updates public, they iterate toward to a more open and twitter-like service. Doing optional geo updates via their iPhone app should be a pretty comfortable step towards a location-aware social network.

Lastly, five is obvious: Facebook has the social graph AND the eyeballs; other services (Loopt, Google, Whrrl) may be able to tap into the graph via Facebook Connect, but they would have to do something ridiculous (and awesome) to get their traffic.

So why isn’t Facebook doing this? Maybe they don’t think that people want it yet. Or maybe there are too many privacy settings and legal issues to worry about. But I’ll leave it at this: it’ll be easier to take on the geo/mobile guys now, than later.

Mad props to Jason for the Photoshop wizardy

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  1. Mark Hendrickson Wed, 19 Aug 2009 05:22:09 UTC

    Look at you getting all excited about geolocation services

  2. Twitter Can Now Know Where You Tweet Thu, 20 Aug 2009 21:34:32 UTC

    [...] location is with its new iPhone app, something with former TechCrunch developer Henry Work noted the other day. However, they didn’t do that, and now with Twitter in the game, they risk once again losing [...]

  3. Aniruddh Fri, 21 Aug 2009 04:08:25 UTC

    Well Facebook should implement a “Friend list” feature with the map thing so I’m in controlled that which friend of my should know where I’m right now and it can be easy by selecting the friend list when we share our location.

  4. Henry Work Fri, 21 Aug 2009 04:33:10 UTC

    Yeah, that’s a good idea Aniruddh. I think you can have some pretty basic privacy controls, like friend lists, without it getting too weird or creepy.

  5. Rob Thu, 27 Aug 2009 15:50:05 UTC

    Did you try the facebook app Footprint History? it connects facebook and google latitude…

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