Live-Blog: Facebook Launches Places Location Service, Partners with Third Parties

We’re here at Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto, covering Facebook’s location service launch event. Interest is running high and the room is packed with press, because increasingly specific rumors have been leaking about about Facebook’s plans since last year — and because location intersects with other major trends, from local advertising and group deals, to e-commerce and social games, and more. We hear there are a number of location-based services and other companies on hand, so stay tuned.

Mark Zuckerberg has taken the stage (and you can watch the live stream here).

5:24 Mark Zuckerberg

We build things and when we have a feeling that they’re ready to go, we start rolling them out. Today, the thing we’re going to be talking about is a new Places product that we’ve been working on for a few months… at least testing it for a few months.

The way we knew that it’s near-complete… I was out at dinner with my girlfriend, and she noticed that [another Facebook exec] was at the restaurant nearby. It was that serendipitous moment that we knew it was ready.

Places. That’s what we’re going to talk about today.

Three things we’re going to talk about [people doing]:

— Sharing where they are

— Seeing who’s around you

— See what’s going on, discovering new places.

We also have a lot of other launch nights coming this summer.

[Professionally-created video about Places starts playing]

5:29 Michael Sharon, product manager for mobile/Places

[We’re] launching places on, mobile browsers and our brand-new iPhone app we’re releasing later tonight.

Shows your location, your friends nearby location, and other friends further away.

As soon as you check in, you see a collection of places around you, sorted by what we think is most interesting to you. You can search, none might be there, and tap the top button to add a place. Add a name and a description and you’re there…

News feed for each Place. You can comment and Like each Place. [At the] far right of Place web page, Facepile. List of friends who have visited. You can see all friends who have been there. Not about broadcasting to the world, but sharing with your friends.

To check in, you tap on the check in button, what you’ll see is the preview of the story at the top, then a notice, and a link to find out more. Click “agree” to create a new story. There’s another new section. When you go to a bar and look around, you can see a whole bunch of people who are there. Here [it] now lets you see friends and other people who are checked in.

Photos are one of the most popular products. One of the things that makes it so good is tagging. But tagging lets you connect with people in that photo. Just like people know for photos, we also have tagging for status updates. Start typing the @symbol, that creates a story on your wall, and their wall.

Everyone on Facebook now is familiar with that for Photos, we took that to Places, so it’s going to be natural for users. Check in, see a list, tap your friend’s face, and that creates a story.

The story is already natural, it’s as if your friend was at a restaurant nearby eating. Tagging is one of the things that makes this really special. When you’re hanging out with friends, you may want to check in, you’re going to be at the exact same place. We thought it would be great to let you tag, check each other in wherever you go. Why is this important? For starters, we’re making it available in advanced mobile interfaces, but not everybody has an iPhone, or other advanced phone. But they still want to be in the photo and status update.

5:35 Michael Sharon

An update, a notice of what’s going on. When you hit allow — from a friend — it will show up on the wall, Place page, friends who have visited. If you click “not now” it’s a little bit like the @ mention. In that case it will just show up on your friend’s wall. But not on your wall or on the Place page. No other info is associated with you in that post.

Bearing in mind privacy controls, we have an active set of safeguards. We default check-in to friends only. That’s the default, but you can change. We’ve made sure this is a full privacy widget so you can restrict to a few specific people.

You can always remove any check-in from your phone or the web. In the “Here Now” section it’s only there once you opt in. If any friends are lower than friends of friends, then it defaults to the most private.

A couple things to note about tagging:

1) You can only tag your friends, this is really important, and only when you’re checking in. You’re always notified when you’re tagged. You can always remove. And we went one step further. You can opt out of having friends tag you. This is accessible on the privacy page along with all the other Places privacy settings.

2) Another great feature that we’ve had on the web for a long time is reporting. Then you have the option to take [it] out.

3) Another great thing is that we’re not launching on Facebook… we’re also launching a great API, which allows a number of developers to use. The API parts:

— Read check-ins, find out more info. Launching tomorrow.

— Search: find places

— Write: publish to FB

More details coming on the APIs later today.

5:40 Scott Raymond from Gowalla

[We have been] huge fans of Facebook and the Facebook platform for years now. [We’ve had] Connect integration from day 1. Building on that.

Preview of the Gowalla and Facebook integration. For existing users, it will remain the much the same. Our organizing principle is the passport. People love collecting. User experience — you can choose to publish to Facebook or not. It’ll look a lot like existing feed stories but a lot richer because you’ll be able to see your friend’s exact position on the map, and see the stamp. Same with photos, attach to check-in, and becomes part of Place page in Gowalla, and published to news feed and Facebook check-ins.

5:43 Holger Luedorf, VP of partnerships for Foursquare.

Great place for still-small check-in industry. Much bigger theme going forward. I think most of you given the topic will be familiar with Foursquare. A year old when it comes in. I think there are different reasons why people use Foursquare. Things such as our badges, point system — engagement — but an added benefit. A lot of people do this already, even though Facebook has launched this. What you have to keep in mind is that check-ins at the core of all this are going to be a greater experience. Better tips and to-dos experience. Find new venues, see new experiences. [What we] hear back from users is that a lot of people have already been finding great experiences even before Facebook.

We’re going to build upon this location check-in and where we are right now is only the beginning. We’re exploring how we’re going to leverage that experience for our Foursquare experience.

5:46 Eric Singley, Yelp Product Manager

Instant Personalization was a huge success for us and our users. People wanted to add that additional layer. 2.5 million people using our iPhone and Android apps. Relatively recently, we also launched a check-in product, that’s successful with our users, growing… fastest way Yelp is growing now. We’re looking foward.

Our integration is pretty straightforward, give you the opportunity to share with just your Yelp friends or on Facebook. Photo, name, some information about business. Launching tomorrow.

Monocle feature lets you see Yelp and Facebook friends around you.

5:49 Keith Lee, CEO of Booyah

We’re super-stoked to be here. We’re the creators of MyTown. Our goal was to create a new product called in-crowd, utilize all real-time social interactions around real-world locations. Half game, half utility. In three weeks we developed for iPhone… Facebook integration. Find friends by location, search, nearby listings. It’s going to be out very soon.

5:51 Michael Sharon

What we’re excited for is when we flip the switch tomorrow and see what everyone else does.

5:53 Chris Cox, Facebook VP of Product

A little secret about Facebook employees — we’re all closet sociologists. Seriously… there is a pretty cool sociologist, Ray Oldenburg, whose take on this whole thing was this. There are three places that matter: home, where you wake up, where your family is, where you eat, where you go to reflect; work, the economic engine of society, brains muscles, invest time and energy greater than ourselves; third, most important and critical as the foundation. Coined term “the third place” — a bar, restaurant, library, street outside, newsstand. Where we go and share our lives with each other, and where random run-ins happen. Tech that we’re creating in 20th century was in danger of destroying the third place. Fear that we would just sit at home rather than going to watch the play.

Rather than experiencing life outside, content with our own private personal venues into what’s going on in the world. What might happen is that the third place would be destroyed.

Theory here, and entire goal of this product, is that the third place is alive and well, and tech is what will pull us away from the TV and out to the theater or bar. Tech doesn’t need to estrange us from each other. Where is it all headed? Maybe at some point you walk into the bar for the first time. Suddenly it starts to glow: it shows what your friends have ordered here. It starts to pop up memories. These are the stories that your friends told here “go check out the message written above the urinal.” What happens is that the story begins to come alive. I’m particularly excited to see the Nuthouse history.

One day, you’ll go to a page, and on that page will be our collective memory. The things we felt and had and lived together, memorialized. Too many of our stories are still collecting dust.

Maybe one day in 20 years, our children will go to Ocean Beach in San Francisco, and their phone will vibrate and they’ll get a message saying “this is where your parents had their first kiss, and this is the phone they took after.”

Q & A:

Q: You mentioned privacy controls for people and friends… what about Places?

A: By default, we expect Places to be public. But we have various ways of determining if it’s public. If enough people check in, then we make it public. If you don’t like someone else’s place, you can flag it.

Q: [Question about a missing feature]

Zuckerberg: You can imagine a whole world of these things getting built. If we can succeed in doing these three things well, then that’s a good start.

Q: What will the issues be for the devleopers?

A: Won’t have full coverage over 500 million people immediately. Just US, with the web and iPhone apps now. Visible on web to everyone. Let’s say you’re not in the US. You can see [what friends do].

Q: When will it get to everyone?

A: Next few weeks.

Q: Plans for Blackberry and Android?

A: The  launch is for all applications that support it.  Works for Android, too.

Q: Link to Facebook business Pages?

A: At launch, showed you example of Place pages — link asking “is this your business?” Then you can verify and it becomes a business Page.

Q: Worked for the last few months… but when and how did it start?

A: Around December of last year, the team came together and got going.

Zuckerberg: What is a good set of features and product that is very different from what everyone else has built? The tagging product that the team came up with is very different from anything else that you’ll see anywhere. You’re using the product fundamentally with the nuances of people around you. Also making sure people have control. Those were things that took awhile. There were a lot of ideas. We’re not just excited for this launch but for the next phase as well.

Q: Did privacy delay?

Zuckerberg: There was so much to do that I don’t know if we could have launched it before now anyway. We want to make sure there’s a certain quality bar. We want to make sure it works for the use cases we have now.

Q: Can you check in to a viewing event like a movie or TV show.

Zuckerberg: No. Sorry, not yet. There’s a lot of stuff that we’re not doing, that we do well — that’s been a big focus for us here.

Q: I was wondering — what’s the impact, what about that part about getting married? Are your kids going to see that?

Zuckerberg: We try to build a strong foundation along the way. We’ll listen to how people use the product, behaviors. That’ll inform [the rest].