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Friday 17 September 2010

Where Am I?....

....and do you really care?

This morning i learnt that Facebook had turned on their Facebook Places location device in the UK. Apparently, it's been available in the USA for a while now and is gradually being rolled out across the world. It seems that the UK is one of the first areas to have it enabled. Whether this is a cause for celebration remains to be seen.

This just got me thinking about the whole issue of location applications, or devices and what people actually use them for. And, ultimately, whether they are really of much use to anybody.

There have been several other location based services available for a while now, such as "foursquare" and "Gowalla". But, obviously, now that Facebook have got involved, things have got a little bit more serious.
I suppose that if the big boys have started to get involved in this, the suggestion is that there really must be something in this type of service. I fully expect the other "big boys" not to be too far behind Facebook. After all, they can't afford to be, can they? They are probably all frantically rushing around and finalising their own versions, as i type.

I have seen many Internet friends of mine using foursquare etc over the past year and, to be honest, i just don't "get it". Why do i want to know exactly where somebody is at any given time?
In fact, i've often found those location based status updates to be rather annoying and i've even gone so far as to hide the status feed of one Facebook friend, mainly because of this unwanted information.
I also know of some who have started to use these services and have then come to the same realisation as myself and stopped using them.
So, just who is using location based services and why?

As with most things on the Internet, i suspect that the bulk of users are young. And therein lies one of the probable reasons as to why this doesn't appeal to me, it's not really meant to.

I can see that knowing somebody's location could be very useful, if you were meeting up with them for a night out, or for a coffee for example. And as all updates are done via the GPS system, they are also very accurate.
This could save you missing out on the good times that your friends are having without you.

I can also see how this could be used as a form of security for worried parents. Those location updates might help a parent know where there child is. Mind you, would any self respecting child want their parents to know that?! Joking aside though, this could help prevent some un-needed false alarms, when a child isn't quite where the parent thought that they might be.

But, one security issue that is a potential concern and has come to the fore recently, is the danger of letting everybody, not just your friends, know where you are. Or, to be more accurate, letting the world know that you are not at home. This has already led to some burglaries being committed. Indeed, there was a recent case in the USA of exactly this kind of crime happening.
It has been suggested that some criminal elements and not just in the USA either, have been checking the location status updates of some people and then raiding their homes, when they know they are not there.
In fact, i understand that the recent crime in the USA was actually committed by a "friend".

As with all things on the Internet. It certainly does pay to think about the amount of information you put "out there". As you are never quite sure who might find it and use it.

But, getting back to the point of this blog post.

The loaction based services so far, foursquare and Gowalla etc, are designed to be used on a mobile device. A cell/mobile phone, blackberry, laptop etc etc. But, i would suggest, that the vast majority of Facebook users actually access Facebook whilst at home. So, therefore, where is the real value here for Facebook, apart from trying to knock out the competion?
Yes, i know that Facebook can be accessed easily via a mobile phone app and i've even used the app myself.
But, my first thought, when reading about this this morning, was "Just how many people actually use Facebook on the move". In fact i even Tweeted exactly that point/question.
It was only then that i did a bit of research and found an article suggesting that up to 45% of time spent on the Internet, on moblie devices, is actually spent on Facebook!!!!

Now i get it.
Just don't expect me to start using a location based device, or application any time soon.

By the way, i'm at home.


  1. Exactly... I see the limited purpose of 4squaring (is that word?) when you're letting a group of people know where the party's at that night. Otherwise, I really don't care that you had lunch at Burger King again, unless something unusual and exciting happened while you were there.

    There's also a (again limited) point to 4squaring privately (checking in, but not posting publicly) to keep a record of restaurants you like, etc., and to qualify for bonuses or premiums from some of those businesses you frequent.

    But, back to facebook... Be certain that you're not accidentally using facebook places: There are two or three things you need to check in your privacy settings - turning places off, not allowing others to "check you in," and I think one other setting... go to your privacy panel and read very carefully...

  2. I did think about the advertising potential of 4Sq etc. These companies will be able to create huge databases of where people like to go, eat, shop etc. That will be very valuable to them & we're doing all of the work for them. Well, some people are.
    I checked my FB settings, on both my computer & iPhone, just in case.

  3. I've been privately 4squaring since I got my iPhone. I find it a fun way to keep track of where I go and I almost see it as a game. I'll try to find new places to go to get more points and more "mayorships" but after that, I don't see the point. I don't have the app linked to my Twitter or Facebook accounts because why in the hell would somebody care where I had lunch? And in all honesty, even if I was alone and did 4sq where I was having a meal, logistically, nobody would ever say "Oh, I'm in the neighborhood, I'll meet you there." By the time you check the tweet or status update, lunch is already going down the drain!!

  4. Gary: Using it privately seems a little more easy to understand. And using it as a bit of a game could be a bit of fun. As you say, apart from that though....