So Facebook Places finally comes out of the closet. At first read it looks pretty good, and when you go to the iPhone app it stands proud in the middle of your phone screen. What it has over other location services such as Foursquare and Gowalla is an existing network of friends who are more than likely to be the ones you would actually want to bump in to “by accident” in the pub.

For a more detailed look, have a read of Walt Mosberg’s column on the WSJ the video is worth a watch to.

Those other two location games have gained some traction and a lot of headlines, but the established nature of our personal Facebook communities combined with the weight of half a billion users worldwide, will guarantee use of Facebook’s service by a much larger volume of people. That means businesses will flock to it and now be trying to get their first Places campaigns running as soon as possible.

Facebook does appear to be being very embracing and actively encouraging Foursquare and others to access Places through its API. Facebook has also not gone down the game route, no mayorships or awards, allowing the more niche services to keep their focus unchallenged.

Right, so what can we do right now, if we live or visit the US? Here are a stream of tweets this morning from @sophysilver from the Facebook UK PR team, thank you!:

  • If you don’t trust your friends it is simple to turn off. For most there is a lot of value in being able to share an experience with friends
  • Places never automatically shares information on the location
  • You must take an action to associate yourself with a place by either checking in yourself or by allowing friends to check you into a place
  • It is not true that the primary location setting is switched on by default. “Places” tags will not automatically be shared with friends
  • Where you have not allowed check-ins you are simply tagged in your friends status updates, just like status tagging works on the site today.
  • Additional protection of being able to turn tagging off for Places, and to sett your own check-ins to any group you want including ‘only me’
  • You also have the option of never checking in with the product in which case you will never be associated with a place
  • Default setting for all is Friends Only. Minors can only share their location with Friends even if they try to widen it

Do follow Sophie on Twitter and for further news about the arrival of Places in the UK.

We will be keeping a close eye on this, especially should we be lucky enough to go on any trips to the US and when it finally arrives on this side of the Atlantic. Let us know what you think of the announcement, are Foursquare and Gowalla doomed?

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