Facebook yesterday announced it is jumping into location-based social networking. I know the whole concept sounds absolutely crazy to a lot of people ("Why should let my phone's GPS broadcast my exact location? So I can help robbers and stalkers and perverts find me, of course!). But in the tech world, this is a move everybody saw coming. Smaller networks like Foursquare and Gowalla have been growing like weeds as the ever-expanding hordes of smartphone-lovers use them to tell their friends where they are and what they're doing. Restaurants and retail shops in Charlotte and elsewhere have taken notice of the advertising potential, putting out special discounts for those who most frequently "check-in" on a service like Foursquare -- thus implicitly telegraphing the awesomeness of said restaurant or shop to all their friends.
So, it was just a matter of time before Facebook joined the game. And, perhaps chastened by previous blow-ups over privacy concerns, Facebook has taken pains not to force anybody into sharing their locations. You'll have to opt into it, rather than have it happen automatically. And when you "check-in," by default, only your friends see it, not the general public. The app for iPhone went out last night. Apps for touchscreen Blackberrys and Android-based phones will be available later, though you can access the function now through those phones' Web browsers at http://touch.facebook.com.
I probably won't jump into it right away. I've always been a little squeamish about location-sharing. Seems I'd like it a lot more if I were in my 20s and partying every other night. Plus, I, like many of you, am not sure I trust the motivations of ever-ambitious Facebook. (Read this smart CNET piece raising intriguing macro-analytic questions about what Facebook might be up to). Still, this, as everyone keeps saying, appears to be the future of the Web: mobile, location-based, real-time. Like it or not, we'll all have to deal with it.
What do you think? Are you planning to use Facebook Places? Or does it weird you out?