February is kind of a lucky month, not only because I was allocated on planet earth in this month but also because it was the real kick off for revolutionary location based services in real world. Location based services are dependent services or solutions which are brought to a requester by either automatically detecting their current real-time location or by manually setting it up on user’s device.
February, 2009 is the time when location based services took all the social experience to another level. Surprisingly, everyone might think of “Google Latitude” as first time idea generator but in fact “Google Latitude” was a replacement to “DodgeBall” which was developed by Dennis Crowley, founder of “Foursquare”. This software was built as part of his graduate thesis project and then purchased by Google in 2005 replaced by “Latitude” in February 2009 as a commercial product. “Google Latitude” was basically a map based platform where user could either locate themselves manually or by using the functionality of GPS or nearest cellular tower information through their mobile phone. The located people are pinned on digital map and then this information can be shared with friends and associates in contact. Just in one month, “Google Latitude” faced the very first competitor. None other but Denis Crowley along with Naveen Selvadurai completely revolutionized the idea of self-locating on a digital map with their product known as “Foursquare”. The idea was basically similar but with an extra of Check-In service which could let user locate them at some local point of interest. Despite all privacy concerns, these both products went through huge number of user interests both in internet & mobile market. This idea went in further adaptation by other big social media based websites such as Twitter and Facebook by end the year 2009. “Google Latitude” then became the last one to introduce the Check-In feature in early 2011.

Facebook Places

The very first thing which makes it a huge success is the estimated number of over 500 million Facebook users even though the service is not available for every one of them yet. Facebook already facing serious privacy allegations and concerns took enough time to introduce the service and then rolling it out based on various factors from location to location.

For last two days, I had been watching friends checking in to various locations in Pakistan and thus they confirmed that it is now available for use. However, some local users are still facing the same message of “service not available in your area”. So there might be a glitch in service or it may be in testing phase.
Facebook Places are available for smarts phones like iPhone, Android phones, Blackberry v1.9+ and any other phone with HTML5 enabled. This pushes the Windows phone out of the list as of current since they are still in process of rolling out the support for HTML5.
Places for Pakistan
One of the main reasons that may have delayed the roll out was the availability of business listing data for Pakistan like other awaiting countries. The data of local business listings for Facebook Places comes from various partners where Facebook’s largest partner is “Factual”. Facebook uses Microsoft Bing maps as their base layer for digital maps and as one of the business listing data partner. Somehow, this partnership for Pakistani users is a bit of worthless with no updated maps and very limited business listings at Bing platform. The actual benefit for Facebook is therefore to use the Google Maps platform as they dominate with lot more updated data and existence on most smart phones like Android and iPhone as their default maps applications.

Tell us more… Would you?

However, Facebook still did not want to stay behind in race of crowd sourcing the information for free of charge from its users despite in such mattes, first question to ask that if Facebook is responsible enough? The answer is mostly not satisfactory. “Tell us more..” is the option, given to the users provided with ability to add listings or edit the existing ones and seems to be taking advantage of enriching their own database and their data partners as well who are also getting data for location based business listings from users without paying a single penny.

Benefits for businesses

Well, nevertheless a major benefit for local businesses that they can use the Facebook Places to advertise their products in a better way and attract more customers. Facebook already offers a Deals feature where businesses can offer deals to the customers when some of the user is nearby that business location or checked-in at particular location.
Individual privacy, Yes still at stake!

3 things you need to watch out from the privacy settings before you use Facebook Places.

At an individual level, privacy remains a concern since you may not want to check-in yourself but you may get annoyed when one of the friends can check you in as easy as to tag you in status message. Therefore, don’t forget to set the appropriate option for “who can check you in to Places” from Facebook privacy settings.

You may not want to get coincidences or unscheduled meetings with any friend by letting them know that you are nearby at the moment. This will need you to set the appropriate options for “People here now” and “Places I check in to” from Facebook privacy settings.

Images and screen-shots are copyrighted to Facebook. This article was also published at ProPakistani.pk