Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare Ante Up for Location-Based Services

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2010-03-10

Facebook is expected to enable location sharing in its users' News Feeds, a move that could automatically make the social network the dominant platform for location-based Web services.

A March 9 report in the New York Times cited sources saying Facebook would announce the news at its F8 developer conference, slated for April 21 and 22 in San Francisco.

Facebook reportedly will allow users to share their location information with friends and will offer software APIs that outside developers can use to create their own location-based services.

Facebook did not confirm or deny the report. As a spokesperson told eWEEK, "We are constantly experimenting with new ideas and products internally. We don't have anything more to share at this time."

The implication is that Facebook will have more to share about location sharing, which could be a big boost for the company as it seeks to grow beyond its current base of more than 400 million users, 100 million of which access the site from mobile phones.

No surprise here; Facebook signaled its intent to offer location sharing in its refreshed privacy rules in late 2009:

"When you share your location with others or add a location to something you post, we treat that like any other content you post. If we offer a service that supports this type of location sharing we will present you with an opt-in choice of whether you want to participate."

Twitter, the Web's leading real-time microblog site, already has a geolocation feature that has been spotted in the wild by TechCrunch. Powered by Google Maps, the feature looks great, but it appears Twitter quickly turned it off after it was spotted.

In another bit of location-sharing news, social location upstart Foursquare, which lets users rack up points when they check into different places, will offer a free analytics tool and dashboard to give business owners information and statistics about visitors to their establishments.

The Times, which also broke this news, said businesses will be able to see who has checked in using Foursquare, when they arrived and which times of day are more active for certain customers. Twitter is also expected to offer such a social business intelligence tool later in 2010.

Coincidentally, the location-sharing news out of Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare came a day after eWEEK published three pieces about Google's location-sharing applications, including Google Latitude and Google Buzz for Mobile.

Like these startups, Google is looking for more eyeballs on the Internet and is heavily invested in the future of location and social networking, as well as the money that stands to be made from displaying advertising with such services. 

However, Facebook's strong social ties, which keep users not only returning to the site but staying on it longer, has the pole position in location-based services.

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