Yesterday, Facebook launched Facebook Places, its new location-sharing service. As a location-sharing service, Facebook as about as barebones as they come. The functionality is limited to checking in and sharing your location with your Facebook friends.
Thanks to its enormous number of users, Facebook is able to bring location-sharing back to its basics, while others have to use gimmicks to acquire new users. There are no badges, coupons, mayor, passports, pub crawls or any of those other features that Foursquare, Gowalla and other location-sharing services offer.
In a way, this almost makes Facebook Places refreshingly different from its competitors. After all, shouldn’t location-sharing services be about sharing your location with your friends and not about coupons and other gimmicks? If people want to share their location – and on Facebook, location-sharing is really just another type of status update for the time being – they want to do so with their “real” friends. That’s exactly what Facebook offers them, without the fuss of having to sign up for another service, import a list of friends just to find out that only 2 of their Facebook friends are actually on Foursquare, and then use yet another app to check in. Given that barely any Foursquare locations actually offer coupons, Facebook Places users really don’t miss out on anything by abandoning these other services.
Without doubt, it will take Facebook Places about two days before it has more users than Gowalla and Foursquare combined. In the long run, Facebook’s competitors will be best off to just use Places as the platform for their own services. Foursquare doesn’t seem to be too enamored with this idea. Gowalla, however, looks to be more than happy to to embrace its Facebook overlords. After all, Gowalla was already getting left behind in its competition with Foursquare, so the company really doesn’t have much to lose by betting on this new platform.