12 Comments

Summary:

One thing Facebook didn’t introduce at its recent f8 conference — even though it was widely anticipated and predicted — was any kind of location-based features or integration with the social network. So what happened? Were they just not ready, or is there more to it?

Facebook introduced some pretty impressive features at its f8 conference on Wednesday, including the social graph API, which will unleash a tidal wave of “like” plugins across the web, as well as a graph protocol to allow searching of status updates. All of this was predicted by many (including Om) in the lead-up to the conference. But one thing that virtually everyone expected was missing: a location-related feature for the network, or at the very least, the integration of location-based services. Location was supposed to be one of the biggest announcements made at the conference, something Facebook telegraphed in its recent privacy changes. So what happened?

Facebook hasn’t said why it changed its mind about launching location features (if it did in fact change its mind). I’ve got a request in to the company for comment, and will update this post if I hear back. But here are some of the leading possibilities:

  • It wasn’t ready to be launched: One theory is that Facebook is developing something in-house — something big — but that it wasn’t in production-quality shape in time for the conference, so decided to delay it.
  • It would have been confusing: Even if it was ready, Facebook may have wanted to save the location launch for its own separate event. Sources said several other potential new offerings were stripped out of f8 at the last minute.
  • Facebook is buying Foursquare: According to some rumors circulating around the web, the network is looking at acquiring Foursquare.
  • The company is working on partnerships: Instead of trying to develop something internally, Facebook could be working on integrating with providers like Yelp, Foursquare and Gowalla.

Of all these potential explanations, the last option seems the most plausible. For one thing, Yelp was heavily featured in Mark Zuckerberg’s keynote as a partner on the new social graph API features, and it’s unlikely that he would do that if Facebook were going to turn around and eat Yelp’s lunch on some location offering. Venture fund Elevation Partners — which has reportedly acquired a stake recently in Facebook via the secondary market for employee shares — is also a financial backer of Yelp, and would likely favor a partnership (maybe that’s part of the reason Yelp walked away from a Google acquisition deal). Roger McNamee of Elevation is also said to be an important mentor of Zuckerberg’s.

Facebook may have plenty of hubris when it comes to dominating social activity on the web, but I think it’s more likely that the company will opt to federate with or integrate services from Foursquare, Gowalla and others such as Yelp, rather than trying to duplicate them. It’s true that the network could simply add location awareness through its mobile apps, the same way Twitter has added the ability to tag tweets — but it would be just as easy, and would still allow Facebook to become the one ring for location, if it allowed other services to use its social graph API and then aggregated and mined the data. And while it didn’t mention location specifically at f8, there are references to location in Facebook’s documentation for the open graph protocol as one of the attributes that developers can use.

Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Flickr user Dunechaser

  1. i LIKE this post, Mathew.

    Better Facebook acquire Foursquare than Yahoo.
    I was feeling so sure that Facebook was going to announce a competitor to Foursquare that I actually winced when Randi Zuckerberg announced pre-keynote that F8 attendees could collect a special Foursquare badge(and Gowalla badge, but who cares about Gowalla anyway?), thinking awwwkward. But no, instead we got a takeover of the internets with lots of like. Hmm, wonder how soon it’ll be till I can earn a Like badge on Foursquare

    Share
  2. Mathew, I’d say they’re building it completely in house with deep integration with their facebook fan pages. Even if they do mention some heavy partnership or even Foursquare acquisition, a few months from now deep integration with their fan pages will exist. That’s the end goal no matter what, and they’ll do whatever they can to insure that this isn’t messed up.

    James
    CEO/CTO of http://SnackSquare.com

    Share
  3. Mathew, I’d say they’re building it completely in house with deep integration with their facebook fan pages. Even if they do mention some heavy partnership or even Foursquare acquisition, a few months from now deep integration with their fan pages will exist. That’s the end goal no matter what, and they’ll do whatever they can to insure that this isn’t messed up.

    James
    CEO/CTO of SnackSquare.com

    Share
  4. Yes I have a strong feeling that they will make a strong bid to purchase Foursquare. I makes sense froma strategic point to buy one of the top location based then to develop one now

    Share
  5. [...] Why Didn’t Facebook Launch Location Features? La conferenza F8 era vista da molti osservatori come l’evento durante il quale Facebook avrebbe dovuto rivelare i suoi piani relativi alla geolocalizzazione. In questo post di GigaOM, Mathew Ingram avanza alcune ipotesi sui motivi alla base dell’assenza di annunci di questo tipo, concentrando la propria attenzione sulla possibilità che Facebook stia lavorando su accordi di partnership con player del settore (ad esempio Foursquare o Gowalla) piuttosto che sullo sviluppo di una soluzione interna. [...]

    Share
  6. Perhaps because to location features as well would have seemed like stomping on privacy with both feet, rather than with just one?

    Share
  7. Actually, if you’d bothered to read the new API documentation, you’ll see there’s plenty of location support in the Open Graph:

    http://developers.facebook.com/docs/opengraph

    See the ‘Recommended Meta Data’ section. This will quickly build up a massive database of locations for Facebook, which they can then exploit later on.

    Share
  8. [...] Why Didn’t Facebook Launch Location Features? | GigaOm [...]

    Share
  9. [...] Meanwhile, two of the giants of social networking — Twitter and Facebook — are also busy integrating location into their networks and services. Twitter has implemented geo-tagging of tweets, partly by buying MixerLabs for its geolocation API, and Facebook is widely expected to launch some form of location-based features (although it didn’t do so at its f8 conference, as some anticipated). [...]

    Share

Comments have been disabled for this post