Facebook plans to roll out geo-location features

7 May 2010

Social-networking giant Facebook is planning to launch location-based status updates for users to compete with Foursquare, and big brands like McDonald’s are queuing up to get involved.

Facebook, which boasts 400m users worldwide, is planning to launch location functionality for its users to compete with Foursquare and it could potentially monetise by allowing brands to put product information related to their venue.

An announcement had been expected at the recent F8 conference for developers but instead Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg concentrated on the next phase of Facebook Connect, which will embrace a new strategy called Open Graph that will link people more effectively with things and capitalise on the strengths of online brands that operate separate to Facebook.

While the move could be welcomed by the more than 100m people worldwide who access Facebook on their mobile, it could add fuel to a growing fire over Facebook’s privacy policies.

However, it is unclear yet if Facebook – which has the world’s biggest mobile app – will charge brands for the service as the company believes it is already profitable from advertising on its website and doesn’t tend to charge for new functionality.

In the coming weeks, Facebook will enable agencies like Tribal DDB in Chicago to install an app that would allow users to post their location within a status update at a restaurant and have a featured product in the post.

The deal with McDonald’s, according to Advertising Age, was negotiated as part of a bigger media buy on Facebook and the restaurant chain will be the first to take advantage of the new location features.

It is understood that a number of digital advertising agencies are spec’ing out the new location functionality that will threaten the rise of services like Foursquare. Brands like Starbucks, Pepsi and MTV have all experimented with campaigns on Foursquare, compelled by the geo-advertising potential.

By John Kennedy

Photo: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years