Facebook hasn’t shared its plans for Glancee, the location-based app it acquired on Friday, but the app fits well into the social network’s location strategy that now goes well beyond check-ins.
“We’re looking at location from a past, present, future sort of tense,” Facebook product manager Josh Williams said at the Where Conference in April. By that, he means letting users share where they have been, where they are now and where they plan to be.
The present tense is pretty clear: users can tag their location in posts to let friends know where they are. As for the past, Timeline allows users to backdate their posts or add old photos to their map. This means Facebook is beginning to gather information on where users have been, including in years before location-based services were available. And with the recent updates to events, users can tag location to indicate where they will be. There are also Open Graph applications that let users list their future travel plans or places they want to go.
The basis for the Glancee, which has since been removed from the Apple App Store, was that users could continuously share their location as the app ran in the background. Users could then browse to see who nearby shared their interests and they would receive push notifications about close matches. This makes present-tense location sharing even easier, but Facebook will likely also consider how this technology could be used for past- and future-tense sharing as well. The social network won’t reveal whether it plans to release a rebranded Glancee app as it did with Beluga’s group messaging app, or simply incorporate Glancee’s co-founders with the rest of its location team, as it did with check-in service Gowalla. But here are some ways we can envision Glancee being applied.
Where friends are
Although Glancee sought to help users meet new people, this feature doesn’t necessarily have wide enough appeal for Facebook’s 900 million users at this time. Many users are sensitive about sharing information with people they don’t know. We imagine social network focusing first on helping users know where their friends are.
Currently, the Facebook mobile site and apps include a check-in feed that shows where users have checked in, but it is not very useful because it does not indicate whether a friend is still at a location. Glancee’s technology could help solve that, and enable more spontaneous meetups among friends. It could also lay the groundwork for a location-based mobile ad network. If users agree to continuously share their location so friends can find them, they might additionally opt-in to get information about deals or sales nearby.
Where friends were
By aggregating data on where friends have been in the past, Glancee could also be used to help users discover new places or decide where to go. Facebook already shows users how many of their friends have been to a location based on check-ins or location tags, but the data is limited only to what users actively shared. The listing would be more complete if users enabled ambient location-sharing, and then a person could reach out to friends for more information about a restaurant that they had been to, for example.
Where friends will be
On the future-location side, users might use events or some other feature to indicate where they plan to be, and Glancee technology could help track their progress along the way. This might be a useful integration for Messenger, Facebook’s standalone group messaging app that already allows users to share their location when they send a message, but doesn’t track it in real-time like iOS apps Find My Friends and Glympse. These apps help users coordinate plans, something Facebook has shown particular interest in recently. The company could create its own location-sharing app similar to what Glancee was, just as it launched Messenger after acquiring Beluga.