Those impressively young kids who run Facebook announced today a brand new “product” called Places, which essentially allows you to “check in” at whatever place you’re currently occupying, see which of your friends are at that same place (or nearby), post updates about that location to that location’s Facebook page, and/or get a sense of all the cool things currently going on around you. (While anyone can use the tagging features on Places, you can only check in via your iPhone or “advanced mobile device,” and only the iPhone version runs natively on the Facebook app. All other touch-screen, web-enabled phones will have to make do with the touch browser version of Places. And that’s about as geeky as this post will get.) Intriguingly, location-based social networking sites Gowalla, Foursquare, Yelp, and Booyah were all on hand at Facebook’s Palo Alto offices as official partners, announcing how their respective sites would integrate their services with Places.
A few things immediately struck me about this announcement:
The sociological ramifications of a collective “memory” of a location being posted in real time online; the privacy issues of having friends be alerted when you’re nearby (or, as one questioner at tonight’s official announcement pointedly noted, having a friend create your private party as a semi-public “place,” and all you can do is “flag” that place and hope Facebook takes it down). But first and foremost, my life is suddenly going to seem very, very boring. As Places rolls out to Facebook users over the next few days, all of my hip and happening Facebook friends are going to see that “Adam is home with his boyfriend and dog,” “Adam is at the local Greek place for lunch,” and “Adam is at home, watching HGTV.” I actually don’t think that’s how Places will exactly work, but you get the idea: Us homebodies who spend inordinate amounts of time at home or at work updating our Facebook statuses are going to be called out as the joyless shut-ins we clearly are.
What do you make of Facebook’s latest foray into creating an engine for people to live their lives online? Will you be avidly checking in via Places? Or will you make a beeline for the privacy settings and opt out of Places placing you in your, er, place?