So it’s official.  Facebook has moved into the location-sharing space in the UK.  At the time of writing there are already 150 million Places users at this stage across Japan, UK and US.

Everyone is probably familiar with what Facebook Places is, but just to recap.  It’s a mobile app allowing users to alert friends to their location, provide a real-time update of where they are and what they’re doing.  When a Facebook user checks in to a location, an update will automatically be published to their friends’ News Feeds.  They can also ‘tag’ friends who are in the same location, either by way of a photo or a status update.  Note however that these tags can be removed.

The product manager for Facebook Places targets three goals for the service, “to make it easier to share where you are, discover new places and discover new friends.”

So will Places present some nice opportunities?  How great would it be to check in to the pub and learn that an old school friend you’ve been meaning to catch up with for a while is round the corner in another bar?  Or that you have friends at the same festival or night club?

And the initial stats and commentary seem quite positive.  Facebook certainly has strength in user numbers.  Perhaps the biggest negative point will be the location security concerns (reports in the US linked burglaries to Facebook Places earlier this week), although Facebook say they, “wanted to prepare a robust set of privacy controls and are really proud of what we’ve done with the Places privacy settings.”

Will it make Foursquare redundant?  A survey of 1,184 British Foursquare users commissioned by MyVoucherCodes.co.uk showed that most (82% in this case) would ditch the check-in service once Facebook Places launches in the UK.  No mayorships, points or badges to worry about (although many would argue this ‘gaming aspect’ is the attraction of Foursquare).  Interestingly though, these rival location-based services such as Foursquare and Gowalla are all using Facebook’s API to develop products that integrate with Places.

I’m on the fence here as to whether it will take off.  We all know that Facebook is the largest social network on the planet, and people arguably carry more friends on this platform than Foursquare, so surely it’s a better platform base to share locations, discover new places and make recommendations?  Then I consider how many Facebook users have ‘acquaintances’ rather than ‘real’ friends on their profile?  Surely if you were ‘properly’ connected with your real friends, you’d know where they are anyway?

Will it lead to people culling these so-called acquaintances?  Or ex’s that they fear they might bump into (I’m sure we’ll hear some stories connecting Places with such scenarios very soon!).

Either way, it looks like a giant step to bringing social networking into the real world.

As for what this will do for brands, keep reading our blog as we’ll be looking at this very soon…

You can check out the Facebook Places video on YouTube as well at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZfX_ZQag1BM&feature=player_embedded

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