Facebook Anticipated to Launch Long-Awaited Location Features Tonight

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By Kim-Mai Cutler Comment

Facebook may unveil location features tonight that will let users tag their status updates with where they are and “like” or establish relationships with Places. Facebook is approaching location as a platform play; it will probably allow other popular location services like Foursquare, Booyah’s MyTown or Gowalla to contribute check-ins so long as they are structured in a way that the social network can transform into search results or other offerings.

The launch also coincides with a new feature that appeared today that auto-completes users’ status updates with objects like Pages, interests and likes. These are probably connected. The auto-suggest feature may help users attach Places to their status updates. Other social networking companies taking a platform approach to location like Twitter are trying to encourage their users to share their whereabouts more often. But only when it makes sense, and doesn’t jeopardize privacy control.

The company has reportedly partnered with location-focused business directory Localeze, the same company that powers conversion of addresses or coordinates into named locations for Twitter. Facebook could use Localeze’s directory to match addresses, and coordinates coming in through the API with businesses that have Facebook Pages.

Anticipation has been building for this for months. Earlier today, a fraudulent Twitter account called Facebook Places appeared, purporting to confirm rumors of a new Places feature. It was later suspended.

The company has long hinted at a location feature. In the company’s privacy policy update last fall, Facebook added a special location section. It said, “when you share your location with others or add a location to something you post, we treat that like any other content you post (for example, it is subject to your privacy settings). 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.”

The portion of the privacy policy was later changed in March as the company’s ideas for location evolved. The new language hints at Places that users might be able to like or stick in their status updates.

The company said in March:

“The last time we updated the Privacy Policy, we included language describing a location feature we might build in the future. At that point, we thought the primary use would be to “add a location to something you post.” Now, we’ve got some different ideas that we think are even more exciting.

So, we’ve removed the old language and, instead added the concept of a “place” that could refer to a Page, such as one for a local restaurant. As we finalize the product, we look forward to providing more details, including new privacy controls.”

The service had reportedly been in the works for several months and many had expected it to make its debut in April at the f8 developer conference. But it didn’t and was pushed further back as the company diverted its attention to a major privacy overhaul in May.

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