When Facebook Places launched this week, I was like a kid waiting to unwrap a present. You know it’s coming but you don’t know what’s inside. I was ready to see what Facebook dished-out in their geo-app and how it would compare to Four Square. Here’s my $.02 and why I fail to be impressed.
Facebook Places is a yawn. I mean, honestly, you’re Facebook and you launch a location-based app with two features? Yes, there are two features: 1) check in and 2) tag your friends. Checking in – duh, every other location-based app let’s you do it. So I’d say that’s more of the basics than a feature. Tagging your friends, now that’s unique and cool and the power of the Facebook social graph. But, it’s also where things get interesting, and that’s not necessarily a good thing.
Let’s say you’re at Game On at Fenway and you run into a friend who you happen to be friends with on Facebook. You check-in to Game On and you tag that friend. Said friend now automatically gets a post on their wall that they’re at Game On with Mr. Check-in. Let’s say said friend told his wife he was working late instead of running to meet the guys for a beer. Hm, I’d call that plain cold busted.
This is a privacy nightmare. Checking-in is a first person prerogative. There are places I check in and share and other places or times when I want to remain stealth. It’s my choice. Now, Facebook gives other people the ability to “check me in” and share my whereabouts without my consent. As my friend Aaron Strout said in his post about the privacy issue:
This is the thing that could make or break Places. The major sticking point being the ability to check people into a location. While I personally like this feature in theory (and it is unique to Facebook as far as I can tell), this will cause plenty of problems down the road. It will only take 1-2 times of someone being checked into a location that you either don’t want to be checked into or weren’t actually at… but by the time your friend/parent/significant other sees the update, it will be too late.
The one thing they really missed the boat on, IMHO, is the gaming aspect or lack there of. I love Four Square. Sure, it has it’s glitchiness and sometimes won’t let me check-in or can’t find my venue, but I think of it basically as geo-location “game” and games are fun. Let’s face it, people, especially social media people tend to be a little competitive and just a tad ego-centric (#justsayin). The idea of checking in to become the Mayor is pretty powerful. I have been trying to oust Aaron B. from his Mayorship at my local coffee joint. Seriously, who is this guy and why do I care? This guy must be drinking espresso via IV over there – I just can’t catch him. See! I love that. I watch people on Twitter banter about stealing mayorships or earning Player badges (yeah, I have that one too:). It’s fun, it’s something to share with your friends and it makes me want to use the app. Facebook completely missed this aspect of the app. Maybe it was on purpose to keep it simple but, to me, it falls way short.
I was out last night and checked-in on Four Square and noticed about 10 of my Four Square friends had checked in at a variety of places. When I thought about checking in on Places, I noticed that none of my friends had checked in – none. It made me wonder if people are hesitant to use Places because of the lack of privacy settings. What if I don’t want to tell my wall that I’m at the coffee shop? Well, too bad. You check in, you broadcast it. I hate this and it will definitely alter the way I use Places vs. Four Square.
So, I haven’t written Places off but I’m definitely finding it less fun and much more invasive than Four Square. What’s your take? Are you using Places? Would love to hear your thoughts.