A Field Guide to Using Facebook Places

A Field Guide to Using Facebook Places

Facebook has just announced Places, the long-awaited feature that brings location-based functionality to the most popular social network in the world.

Whether you're a developer with a great app idea, a business with an interesting location marketing plan or just a regular Facebook user who wants to get involved with Places, there are a few details to note before you start using Places. The feature is fascinating, but it still has its limitations. And our guide isn't without caveats, especially for users.

If you're ready to start playing, here's what you'll need to know about Places.

How to Use Places

First of all, you or a Facebook friend in your group will need a smartphone. If you don't have an iPhone, you'll have to use the Facebook touch mobile site on a browser that supports both HTML 5 and geolocation.

The company does plan to roll out Android and BlackBerry versions of Places, but they haven't released any specific dates for those releases yet.

To use Places, go to the Places tab on the iPhone application or touch.facebook.com. You'll first be asked if Facebook is allowed to know your location. Once you click "allow," you'll enter the Places interface. From there, you can share your location with friends, find out where your friends are (if they're using Places), and discover new places near you.

You can add places, check in to places that already exist, and tag people who are with you. If you're checking in for a group, make sure you tag your friends before you checkin, yourself. For example, I added my house and checked in there. I then opened the Places page for a nearby sushi restaurant, tagged my boyfriend, and checked us both in there.

We've noted that it is possible to checkin from other non-smartphone devices in a regular, non-mobile browser, but you will have to use Facebook's touch site.

You'll also need to live in the U.S. Facebook's goal is to launch all over the United States within a few days. International launch dates haven't been released yet.

Other Services That Will Use Places

Tomorrow, Facebook is opening up certain data that will allow any and all developers to access parts of Places. That means that a lot of applications will start pulling information from Places, scraping it for data about people, locations, groups and more.

For right now, though, only a few apps have been selected to push information back into Places. Initially, Gowalla, Foursquare, Booyah (creators of MyTown and Nightclub City) and Yelp will integrate with Facebook Places.

If you use a Yelp mobile app for checkins, you'll be able to push those checkins to Facebook Places, as well. Gowalla and Foursquare checkins can also be pushed to Facebook Places.

Booyah plans to launch a location-based social game called InCrowd; it will be built on Facebook Places. The company says it will be "a playful social app based on interacting with people and sharing real-time posts at real-world locations" and will allow players to "socialize, meet new friends and track popularity" in the app. It will be available in the iTunes App Store soon.

What About Privacy?

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said this feature isn't about sharing your location with the world; it's about finding places and sharing them with your friends.

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