On a recent trip to see my boyfriend, I found myself in a conversation about Facebook’s ‘Places’ feature with his brother. Given Danny’s recent blog post on the topic, I thought it was interesting that I got the chance to talk to a non-tech person about how/if the tool was catching on. We were in a small breakfast place in rural Massachusetts, and the restaurant had a small poster up asking visitors to become fans of their Facebook page. One question led to another, and I found myself explaining first what Places was, and then, the value behind it for both businesses and individual people. However, as I launched into an explanation, I couldn’t help but wonder where Facebook had failed – my boyfriend’s brother is young, active on Facebook, owns a smartphone, and lives in a city (an ideal Places user), and he had no idea what the feature was or how it was relevant to his own life.
Facebook created Places to allow people to share where they are and connect with nearby friends, and to find local deals from businesses. But, as evidenced from the conversation noted above, Danny’s post, as well as my Facebook news feed, I haven’t seen much of that going on. My only Facebook friends that I see using Places are my fellow San Franciscans, where tech-related trends seem to catch on as easily as wearing clothes and breathing.
However, as Danny pointed out in his post, the amount of people using location-based mobile applications is very slim. Thinking about my own personal experience, I can’t remember how many times I’ve explained to my non-tech friends what Foursquare is and why on Earth anyone signs up. Further complicating the issue is an idea called ‘persistent location,’ which Ryan Kim wrote about in an article on GigaOM yesterday, ‘Beyond the Check-In, the Era of Persistent Location Beckons.’ If consumers are pushed useful information on things they can do or buy while they’re in a given area, will it give consumers a reason to participate? Or will this scare them off even more?
In the end, I was surprised that Facebook didn’t turn people on to geolocation. And it leads me to wonder what will be the turning point for geolocation – if it’s not a service, then it might be a capability such as persistent location. Or is it something we haven’t thought of yet? I guess we’ll have to keep ‘checking in’ on the market as it develops.