By now even casual Facebook users, those who don't make a status update about things like using the wrong brand of creamer, or dedicate the majority of their screen real estate for hours on end to it, have noticed the locations feature popping up on profile pages and news feeds. Of course they aren't the first ones to do this but Facebook may have some advantages smaller geo-location service companies may not. Like 500 million users.
Hit the break to find out if Foursquare, Loopt, or any others are in trouble
Aside from the massive amount of users that Facebook boasts they have an edge in the ad revenue arena. Partially because they can reach so many people and because it's the only revenue that Facebook really makes. Like Foursquare, Facebook Places allows any business to advertise specials, loyalty rewards for mayors (people with the most check-ins for a place), or group check-ins, and all for free. But this is where most of the similarities end. For example, when you tag your location with Facebook Places and/or hit the activate button to take advantage of a deal, it will be posted on your profile and news feed as will any specials the place was offering that you qualified for when you checked-in. This wouldn't be an issue except that Facebook Places doesn't give you the discretion to control event posts like Foursquare does. So lets say you wanted credit for checking-in to a venue in order to have a quiet lunch, but not tell anyone. You can simply de-select the Facebook, Twitter, and "Show my friends," (Foursquare specific friends) option to do so. And this is assuming you chose to link those accounts in the first place. At a recent presentation about Facebook Places, CEO Mark Zuckerburg addressed the issue saying, "The privacy settings you have chosen for Places apply to your claimed deals, as well, so you never have to share this information with anyone you don't want to."
The current buzz about Facebook Places follows a failed attempt to purchase Foursquare for $125 million. This could be why they didn't seem to be Foursqaure friendly during the presentation as they made mention of several other geo-location companies like Loopt and Yelp who are working with Facebook on their Facebook Places API. Foursqaure did not comment about the attempted buyout but CEO Dennis Crowley did say that Foursquare's playful personality will give them an advantage over a more generic Facebook version.
It's difficult to build services that are supposed to scale to, you know, 30, 50, 100 million users right off the bat, because they got to be kind of tailored down. By definition, they have to be a little bit generic to speak to that large of an audience.
There is one more thing that Foursquare has going for it and that's branded guides or tips from advertisers that users can choose to follow at their discretion. So is Facebook Places a Foursquare killer? Probably not. Foursquare is available every place Facebook is so while it doesn't have 500 million users, yet, it can still reach them. They also compete in a huge market where there is plenty of room for both companies to expand. Odds are there will be a lot of cross-pollination between businesses using both services to advertise. Lastly, in the long term, it may be difficult for Facebook Places to compete with others who have a much more personalized and colorful user experience.
What do you guys think? Did I get it wrong? Let me know in the comments section.