Facebook Places Shares Where You Are
Places, much like Foursquare, lets you check in from various locations while you're out and about. Checking in is connected to pages for those places (whether it be a restaurant or a park) that track recent activity at their respective locations. In addition to simply announcing that you're at a location, you can see if any of your other friends have checked in from there, or tag the friends who are currently there with you. The functionality of tagging is almost exactly like mentions on Twitter ('@' prefix and all), but, as with Facebook's photos, users have the option to untag themselves or prevent themselves from being tagged altogether.
In a video demoing the new Places features, Facebook repeatedly makes reference to connecting users "serendipitously" through check-ins. For example, if a friend checked in near your current location, Facebook would alert you via a push notification. Similarly, you can check out the 'People Here Now' section to find the friends around you. If you wish, you could then contact that person, and meet for coffee or lunch. Since Places pages also track activity, you can check to see if a friend happened to visit the same restaurant a few months back, perhaps mentioning that the carrot cake pancakes were to die for.
Facebook hopes that Places will become not only another way to stalk each other, but also a repository for experiences and opinions attached to a physical location. The plan sounds suspiciously similar to what Google hoped to accomplish with Buzz (but at which it failed). Whether or not Facebook succeeds will depend largely on the seamlessness of the experience. However, in a sign that Places may be here to stay, Gowalla and Foursquare are partnering with Facebook to integrate with the service.
Now that Facebook's Places is live, one of the first things you'll want to do is update your privacy settings. If you don't want to share your location (or let other people share where you are), you'll want to turn off the ability of other people to tag you as being at a location. Truth is, if you wanted people to know where you were, you'd probably check in yourself. Turn that off by going to your privacy settings, click on "customize settings" and disable "friends can check me into Places." While you're here, you might as well change who can see when you check in via the entry under "things I share." Customizing this setting will make it so that nobody (other than you) can see when you check in. Lastly, disable "people here now," which can expose your location to anyone else, friend or not, checked in at the same place.
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More Coverage: Facebook Blog