At about 7.45 this morning, Facebook held an event here in London to launch a ‘secret’ new service. This may well be the worst-kept secret I’ve EVER seen! : )
The moment the event was announced, Twitter (ironically) was a-buzz with speculation about what it could be – most agreed that it was either the UK-launch of ‘Facebook Places’, or some other new add-on. Most also agreed that the timing of the roll-out was easy to expect – with Google having launched Instant last week, and ‘New Twitter’ launching yesterday, Facebook needed *something* to announce or risk losing out on those vital column inches.
Bizarrely, a number of people who were invited to the event were asked for their USER ID numbers – presumably so they could have the service switched on to give it a try. However, when I logged in to Facebook myself this morning (my invite must have been lost in the post…), Places was already up and running – and my stream was quickly filling up with people either giving it a try or getting confused by it!
If you didn’t follow the buzz around Places when it launched in the US, you may be a little confused yourself. In a nutshell, Facebook Places is FB’s own entry in to the location-based market – competing with the already well-established FourSquare, Yelp and my own personal favourite, Gowalla.
Users of the Facebook iPhone app will be able to use the service pretty-much instantly – presuming you have updated to the latest release of the app. PC-based Facebook users will find it a little more confusing at first – however, clicking on one of the inevitable checkins in your stream should give you a little more clarity.
Here’s a screenshot of a Facebook Place, as checked into by me, just now:
Considering other location-based services rely on users creating their own spots before being able to check-in, Facebook Places is already remarkably well stocked with businesses and locations. The checkin I did above was for my local cornershop – not exactly something I’d have expected to see on there, so quite impressive.
What other ‘added value’ things you’ll be able to do with the service will only become clear over the next few months, but for now it’s clear that Facebook have rolled this out much quicker than people first expected, so it’ll be interesting to see how the average Facebook user takes the news.Tweet