“Ever gone to a show, only to find out afterward that your friends were there too?” Michael Eyal Sharon, Facebook’s mobile product manager, wrote in the company’s announcement. “With Places, you can discover moments when you and your friends are at the same place at the same time. You have the option to share your location by ‘checking in’ to that place and letting friends know where you are. You can easily see if any of your friends have also chosen to check in nearby.”
To use the feature, Facebook users need to download the most recent version of the iPhone application or visit touch.facebook.com. The Facebook mobile site will only work for users with a smartphone that has a mobile browser that supports HTML 5 and geolocation.
Once using the application or mobile website, users click the “Check In” button to see a list of places nearby. Users click on the appropriate venue and if it’s not available, they can add it. Once checked-in, a Facebook user’s friends will be notified of the user’s whereabouts in their News Feeds.
“Places is only available in the United States right now,” Sharon wrote. “But we expect to make it available to more countries and on additional mobile platforms soon.” When a user is checked-in, he or she can tag friends that are with them and post an update to tell friends what’s going on at that venue.
The app also boasts a “People Here Now” section so a user can see his or her friends that are at the same location. Users who don’t want to be visible to others need to change their privacy settings.
“This section is visible for a limited amount of time and only to people who are checked in there,” Sharon writes. “That way you can meet other people who might share your interests. If you prefer not to appear in this section, you can control whether you show up by unchecking the ‘Include me in People Here Now after I check in’ privacy control.”
If you’re with someone who checks you in to a Place, you will receive a notification on Facebook and on your mobile. Facebook says the first time this happens, you’ll be given the choice to allow your friends to check you in to places. If you opt-in to share check-in data with third-party applications, Facebook will share that information with them as well.
Facebook’s Places feature is almost a complete copy of Foursquare. At one point, Facebook tried to buy the company but Foursquare CEO Jack Crowley turned down the offer. Foursquare is backed by $21.4 million in funding from some notable investors including Ron Conway, Kevin Rose, Andreessen Horowitz and Union Square Ventures, to name a few.
Foursquare has more than one million “check-ins” every day and Crowley said the company is nearing three million users. But with Facebook boasting a user-base of more than 500 million people, some wonder if the new Places feature will kill the growing startup.
Facebook invited Foursquare and competitor Gowalla to the launch of Places and Facebook said it’s been working on the project for nearly eight months.
That said, it seems as though Foursquare didn’t have early access to the feature and Crowley told VentureBeat he wants to “mess around with it for a week or two” before the company determines how it will integrate with Facebook.
To take a tour of Facebook Places, visit the site here.