Location, location, location — it's crucial to real estate, and increasingly, to social networking websites. Facebook, the giant among such sites, may roll out its own location-based features that would give it the kind of "check in" chops of Foursquare.
Facebook is holding a press conference Wednesday to talk about updates to its "features and products," and it's likely that location-based services will be part of those updates. It could even partner with Foursquare, the leading site for those who want to share their location with friends, and a site which Facebook tried to buy earlier this year.
Foursquare, whose top rival is Gowalla, has been registering more than 1 million "check-ins" a week since February. In July, its membership reached 2 million users.
However, since then, little has been shared about those ideas.
With about 100 million of its 500 million-plus users accessing Facebook from their mobile phones, location-based programs may meld well with users' desires to update their friends from wherever they are. But more importantly to Facebook's revenues — the program is free for users — is that advertisers and marketing companies could offer their own location-based services to users to drum up business.
Privacy is a key issue — although once you agree to sharing your location, that pretty much goes out the window.
One of the downsides of location-based programs is having to digitally "check in" at the restaurants, stores and airports where they are to activate the programs, writes Jesse Thomas, CEO of JESS3, a product design firm, on Mashable's site.
"Stopping whatever you’re doing to check-in when you arrive at a location is just lame," Thomas says. "If you’re arriving at a happy hour, you might lose a conversation while you’re busy tapping away. If you visit a store, you’ll be standing just outside or inside and getting in the way until you’ve checked-in. The active check-in requirement is one thing holding back location-based social networks ... from widespread adoption."
In a recent report, Forrester Research recommended marketers stay away from location-based services for now, saying that only 4 percent of adults in the U.S. use such services so far.