The Facebook Places check-in service should pose a strong challenge to Google Places once local businesses begin advertising through it, experts believe.
The services ultimately share the same means to a financial end in making ad dollars from connecting local businesses to consumers using their smartphones to navigate city streets.
Google Places is a local business owner's advertising vehicle for the Web. Facebook Places plays to the social side of the coin to help people share information about each other, but it has great ad potential.
Formally named the Google Local Business Center, Google Places lets restaurants, tanning salons and other service providers list information about their establishments on Google Maps.
When users do a search for a local Starbucks, they can click on its Place Page and see store details, as well as ratings and reviews of that specific venue. Businesses may even choose to provide a small yellow call-out in their listing for $25 per month through a program Google calls Tags.
But Google Places has no true social element to call its own.
Google has fashioned its Google Latitude friend-finding service and Google Buzz for mobile to leverage Google Maps, but there is no glue between these products, no network of people to entice other users to connect and share information.
Facebook Places, meanwhile, is a location-based platform that lets users check in from a restaurant, bar or some other local joint and tag their friends so that other friends can know what they're up to and possibly meet up.
Facebook's service is available in the United States only for now, covering 125 million people, but in time Places will serve the network's 500 million global users.
Where Google Places is about information and advertising first, Facebook Places plays up the idea of connecting friends with a strong plan for local advertising lurking in the background.
At launch, the company didn't play up the advertising component. Indeed, Facebook told reporters it didn't it didn't have specific plans in mind to make money from Places.