You are likely no stranger to Facebook. Almost everyone uses it these days and the company boasts 150 million users on mobile phones alone. The local Groups feature has been a popular Facebook offering since the beginning of the social service and it allows users to connect with people in their local areas. But Facebook Places takes local social networking a bit further.
Enter real time location-based social networking.
Facebook Places allows you to let your friends know exactly where you are located right now. For instance, you’re sitting in a Starbucks at the corner of Fifth and Main. If someone you know is approaching that intersection and sees you sitting there, she could just pop in and say hi. The courtesy of a heads up would be her choice, of course.
The biggest downside seems to be a loss of privacy, but you can change who sees and who can interact with your Facebook Places settings through the service’s privacy settings.
This puts Facebook on the forefront of location-based networking and close to the leading edge on location-based advertising, which is sure to follow. It’s interesting that other location-based services like Foursquare and Gowalla see Facebook as friendly to their services rather than a competitor.
(Source) Appearing at Facebook’s announcement, some initial partners, including Foursquare and Gowalla, said they thought Facebook would be an enabler—not a competitor—by introducing a lot of new users to the world of sharing their locations.
Foursquare beat Facebook to the location-based networking space by a year and a half. Gowalla arrived on the scene somewhat earlier but doesn’t have as many users as Foursquare.
Of course, these are not the only location-based networking services online. Facebook Places does have its competition, including Google. Google’s service is called Latitude, which allows you to see where your friends are on Google Maps.
I have a feeling that location-based social networking is just getting started. According to JiWire, more than half of mobile users want to see location-based advertising. That means Facebook Places has a unique opportunity to capitalize and being that Facebook is the most trafficked website online, it has the market clout needed to rival Google in paid advertising services. Places could just be its ticket to the big leagues.