Facebook Brings Places Deals To The UK

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Facebook has launched a shopping discount service based on its Places app in the UK

Facebook has launched its Places Deals feature in the UK, which rewards users for ‘checking in’ to various locations using their mobile phones.

Users logging into Facebook Places will see yellow and green icons next to their nearby places, allowing them to claim deals by checking in at those places and showing their phone in the associated venue. “In just a few clicks, you can get individual discounts, share deals with your friends, earn rewards and secure donations for good causes,” said the company.

Facebook launched the feature in the US in November 2010, threatening the money-making strategies of services such as Foursquare and Gowalla that have long been offering deals and coupons to people who check-in to businesses. Places Deals has now been expanded to Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Canada.

Initial UK partners reportedly include Starbucks, which will offer a free coffee to the first 30,000 customers checking in using the Facebook Places app, and food chain Yo Sushi.

The ‘Places’ privacy debate

The Deals feature builds on Facebook’s Places application, which launched in Britain in September 2010. Facebook Places encourages mobile users to share their location with friends on the social network and view contacts that have checked in nearby.

Facebook claimed at the time that the application was modelled on how people were already using the site, but some security experts warned of the dangers of broadcasting one’s location on a platform that has over 500 million users.

“We expect to see many situations where lack of experience of the users (or unclear information sharing with third party providers) will generate problematic situations for Facebook users and possible push back,” said Monica Basso, vice president of mobility and collaboration at analyst firm Gartner.

However, the Deals feature could create extra incentive for people to use the Places application. “This move is a no brainer for Facebook,” Ian Maude, head of Internet at Enders Analysis, told The Telegraph. “It is the company’s first major move into mobile discounts and location based advertising. I think this has the potential to be a smash hit for them.”

New mobile payments in the offing

Last week, Everything Everywhere – the combined entity of UK mobile operators Orange and T-Mobile – became the first British mobile operator to roll out a mobile payments service, enabling customers to use their phones to pay for goods and services in shops around the country.

“While we’re still several years away from cash losing its dominance and physical debit and credit cards becoming redundant, the shift towards mobile phone payments is only going to accelerate in the coming months,” said Fred Huet, Managing Partner of Greenwich Consulting UK.

Apple’s next-generation iPad and iPhone will also feature mobile payment technology, according to reports.

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