Facebook just launched Places for the United States. In short, it is a location check-in platform. They launched with four partners (Foursquare, Gowalla, Yelp and Booyah) all of whom are federating check-ins in some way. The Places API is currently read-only, while the Write & Search API are in closed beta.
Facebook Places was created with three goals:
- Helping people share where they are
- Seeing who else is around you
- Seeing what’s going on around you
The launch will be available via a new iPhone app and the Facebook mobile site (requires a browser with HTML5 and geolocation). From these apps you can check yourself into a location, create a new place ,and check-in friends. Every Place has a “People Here Now” section where you can see who else is at a location during a particular time window.
Developer documentation is already live at developers.facebook.com.
Facebook took great pains to not be the big bad during the launch of Places. They had the following launch partners on the stage:
- Gowalla — When you check-in you get a Passport stamp (as normal). Can post your Check-In to Facebook.
- Foursquare — You can check-in to Facebook via Foursquare.
- Yelp — Check-in federation; soon can read check-ins. Will be able to see where Yelp and Facebook friends are via Monocle.
- Booyah (creators of MyTown) — Booyah is going to launch a new iPhone app, InCrowd, in the coming weeks that will be a mix of game and social utility based around Facebook Places.
The key feature of Facebook Places is the number of users that are suddenly impacted. Tens of millions of people across the US will now be able to share their location with their friends for the first time ever (of course they could have always joined one of the existing services, but they didn’t). Facebook Places in many ways just validated the location check-in space while at the same time they owned it. As Dennis Crowley, the Foursquare founder, has said (and many others): check-in data is a commodity. The value will come in the reviews, ratings and other data that they are able to glean from their users’ behaviors.
What I need to think more about is what do Twitter and Google do now? Each have made their own location plays. Will they get Write access to the Places API? Do they need it?