Following Facebook’s Places announcement popular location service Foursquare saw a spike in user signups. This comes according to a Tweet by Fourqsquare co-founder Dennis Crowley: “Just heard from The @HarryH that today was @foursquare’s biggest day ever in terms of new user signups.” @HarryH is the Twitter account for Foursquare’s lead engineer Harry Heymann.
While many see Facebook’s entrance into the location game as competition for Foursquare, others see a different side of things. Foursquare now has the same problem that Twitter did in the early days: people just don’t see what the point is. They don’t understand why they’d want to share their location. They probably don’t even understand what a check-in is. Facebook Places will change that and this rush of Foursquare sign-ups is evidence.
Thanks to the Places API, Facebook is currently serving as a platform for services like Foursquare and Gowalla. And thanks to their 500 million users, Facebook is introducing the concept of location to millions of new users. It shouldn’t be surprising that some of those users are now interested in Foursquare after yesterday’s announcement (and subsequent tidal wave of press).
Foursquare is currently sitting at about 2.8 million users, so we can expect that to hit 3 million pretty soon. This doesn’t mean that Foursquare or any other location service is in the clear. Facebook has a lot of clout and a huge network. They will start stepping on toes and Foursquare is going to have to stay on theirs to stay relevant and successful.
One major difference between Facebook Places and Foursquare is the question of identity. Sharing your location is serious business and you probably don’t want the entire of the Internet knowing where you are right now. With Foursquare, identifying who these people are that want to know your location is a challenge. On Facebook, it’s easier to tell who is who and you can rest a little easier.
Facebook Places still has a way to go as well. As with any new Facebook feature, there will be a backlash. The opt-in/opt-out process for Facebook Places is pretty confusing. Most users are currently in a state of limbo regarding checkins. Remember that your Facebook friends can check you into a venue. Once they do that, you will get a notification asking what you want to do. You can A) Accept the check-in so you have nothing to do with it or B) Say “Not Now,” which won’t check you into the venue, won’t show anything on your wall, but your name is still linked in your friends’ News Feed.
There are already various posts that talk about how to protect your privacy on Facebook Places and the fire storm is surely just beginning. Once things calm down, it will be interesting to see what moves the major location players make to keep things interesting.