Social Networking Platforms Line Up Location-Based Services

Reports suggest Facebook is about to join social networking rivals, Twitter and Foursquare in banking on services launched to be at the forefront location-based networking

Facebook is expected to enable location sharing in its users’ news feeds, a move that could automatically make the social network the dominant platform for location-based web services.

A 9 March report in the New York Times cited sources saying that Facebook would announce the news at its F8 developer conference, scheduled to take place 21-22 April in San Francisco.

Facebook will reportedly allow users to share their location information with friends and offer software application programming interfaces (APIs) for outside developers to offer their own location-enabled services.

Facebook did not confirm or deny the report, as a spokesperson told eWEEK: “We are constantly experimenting with new ideas and products internally. We don’t have anything more to share at this time.”

The implication is that Facebook will have more to share about location-sharing, which could be a big boost for the company as it seeks to grow beyond its 400 million-plus user base, 100 million of which access the site from their mobile phones.

No surprise here; Facebook signalled its intent to offer location-sharing in its refreshed privacy rules late last year: “When you share your location with others or add a location to something you post, we treat that like any other content you post. If we offer a service that supports this type of location sharing, we will present you with an opt-in choice of whether you want to participate.”

Twitter, the web’s most popular real-time microblog site, already has a geolocation feature that has been spotted in the wild by TechCrunch. Powered by Google Maps, it looked great; but it appears Twitter quickly turned it off after it was spotted.

In other location-sharing news, social location upstart Foursquare, which lets users rack up points when they check-in to different places, will offer a free analytics tool and dashboard to give business owners information and statistics about visitors to their establishments.

The Times, which also broke this news, said businesses will be able to see who has checked in to their business from Foursquare when they arrived and which times of day are more active for certain customers. Twitter is also expected to offer such a social business intelligence tool later this year.

Coincidentally, the location-sharing news out of Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare came soon after Google’s release of a number of location-sharing applications, including Google Latitude and Google Buzz for mobile.

Like these startups, Google is looking for more eyeballs on the internet and is heavily invested in the future of location and social networking, as well as the money that stands to be made from displaying advertising with such services.

However, Facebook’s strong social ties, which keep users not only returning to the site, but staying on it longer, has the pole position in location.

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