The big news in the social media space: Facebook has released “Places,” a much-anticipated geo-location service that will allow users to “check in” at locations around the world. Or rather, Facebook is in the process of releasing Places, since it’s not available everywhere as of this writing. In an interesting move, Facebook has partnered with several of the top providers of location-based tools, including Foursquare, Gowalla, Yelp and Booyah, rather than taking them on directly. In fact, Places as it stands is relatively rudimentary, with none of the competitive features that have turned Foursquare into a game for millions of users, for instance.
But the slim functionality of the initial release suggests something deeper about Facebook’s approach to geo-location: they’re providing the basic tools, but letting others provide the interesting applications. In some ways, it’s similar to Facebook Apps, since Zuckerberg and company built the framework in which Mafia Wars, Farmville et al live, but they didn’t build the actual games themselves. Foursquare has already been working with its larger colleague for months (roughly 20% of Foursquare users currently push their check-ins to Facebook, for instance), and Facebook appears to be trying to turn other potential competitors into partners as well. Watch this space — with 500 million users, Facebook’s attitude might not stay so benevolent forever. One potential clue? The new Places logo is a “4” in a square…hmmmmm.
More on geo-location in politics and advocacy: