Jumping on the location-based social-network bandwagon led by Foursquare, Facebook will be launching a new, optional service called Places, which will allow users to “check in” to real-life locations such as restaurants, bars, and stores. Users who opt into the service will, semi-creepily, have access to a map with the current location of all of their Facebook friends. And the “People Here Now” option will let them see which Facebook users (even those they are not Facebook friends with) are nearby. Reaction among the tech crowd seems to be one of general acceptance, describing Places as a “high-quality, low-risk product,” as the Atlantic puts it.
The mobile service — which, for now, is only available to iPhone users — will not be monetized by Facebook for the time being. And in hopes of allaying any concerns over privacy, Facebook says Places is simply a way of enhancing the status updates already embraced by many users: “We’re just building a new way for people to share that information in an engaging way,” one Facebook official told the Journal. And for those who spend their days trolling the News Feed (i.e. everyone), yes, you will be able to comment on and “like” the locations of your friends. Though perhaps more useful would be a “dislike” button for jealous significant others or people who didn’t make the invite list to Saturday night’s most happening party.