How Facebook Is Using 'Places' to Consolidate Power

The biggest social network throws its weight around

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Facebook is diving head first into the geolocation space. On Wednesday, CEO Mark Zuckerberg unveiled a new update to Facebook's iPhone app called "Places." The program allows users to "check-in" to locations and share that information with friends. The move is being widely interpreted as a push by Facebook to cement itself as the single indispensable social networking platform. Existing check-in apps like Foursquare and Gowalla will be integrated with the Facebook app, allowing it to co-opt the competition. Do rivals in the social space stand a chance?

  • What Does Places Do? Chris Rawson at TUAW explains: "Places is Facebook's stab at sharing locations with friends via GPS tagging; by tapping a 'Check in' button and choosing a location near you, you'll be able to share your current location in your friends' news feeds. Your check-in will also show up on the location's Recent Activity page, assuming the location has a Facebook page. So, you can look forward to a lot of 'Johnny Appleseed is at Target in University Heights' posts in your Facebook News Feed in the near future. Hooray? You'll also be able to tag any friends who are with you, and you can see other Facebook users at that location by checking the 'People Here Now' section."
  • That's Not All It Does, writes Ben Bajarin at Slashgear: "Places adds the ability for people not to just share locations but to genuinely share experiences. By giving a location a digital place on their platform, Facebook has provided an opportunity for experiences with that location to be shared with others not only in the present but also in the future. One other element about Places that is interesting is that it may now open the door for more economic value to and for Facebook. If owners of said location where I have just 'checked in' may now present me with offers we may be looking at a whole new way of advertising. Because now it is my location that becomes the mechanism for what advertising I see."
  • Facebook Owns the Location Game Now, writes Henry Blodget at Business Insider: "Facebook will now become the platform on which other check-in applications like Foursquare will be built. This puts Facebook in an even more powerful position than it is already in.  If Facebook's check-in functionality takes hold as the world's default check-in engine, there's a chance that much of the mobile application world will incorporate its API.  And that can only be good for the company. Google is nowhere in the social game--and its chances of getting somewhere diminish every day."
  • Facebook Realizes the Internet's Future Is Mobile, writes tech consultant Michael Gartenberg: "The intersection of mobile and social networks is having a transformative effect in a year where almost everything is in the process of evolving in the mobile space. It’s therefore no surprise to see Facebook making the necessary investments needed to stay at the center of users social network experiences. With the ability to leverage their 500 million plus user base, Facebook has gained instant credibility in what was becoming a crowded market and reinforcing their leadership position as the core social network for users."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.