How Facebook Could Integrate Places Into The Home Page, Events, and Photos

Places has potential to be more than just a Facebook version of a 3rd-party location service. By integrating Places into other core products like Events, Photos, and the home page, Facebook can build on one of its founding assumptions — people care about what’s in close proximity to them. Crucial to this will be enabling different types of content, pages, and profiles to be tagged with Places.

Home Page and Communication

Most urgently, Facebook needs to design a way to allow users of the web version of Facebook.com to view the most recent check-ins of friends from the home page. Facebook for iPhone and touch.facebook.com both can display lists of friends who have checked in nearby, but this depends on the phone used to geolocate the user. Even if the list merely showed a stream of check-ins of your friends regardless of proximity, this would help users at home find friends at a nearby park or bar, encouraging meet-ups. You can see current check-ins of your closest friends on the Events home page, but a full list would fit well in the empty space below the “Friends Online” chat list in the home page’s left sidebar.

So you’ve determined 10 friends are scattered at a few Places nearby, but how can you get in contact with them? The ability to private message or invite to an event the people within a certain proximity would let users purposefully converge, instead of just dropping in on the Place of a friend unexpected.

Events

Before Places, Events was Facebook’s most location-minded in-house application. To find an Event, though, users needed to be invited, have a friend who had RSVP’d, or click through a feed story to an Event page. Facebook could help users find appealing events, even if none of their friends are going, by introducing a Nearby Events feature. Admins could tag their events with a location, and users could then view current or upcoming events within a defined distance of themselves. Perhaps none of your friends are that into art, but the new gallery down the street is having an exhibition. Nearby Events would help you find out about it (this would, of course, only apply to public Events).

Similar to how organizations can merge their official Page with a Places page, Event pages could benefit from gaining Places functionality. Instead of assuming someone who RSVP’d positively will actually be at an event, Facebook could add a “Here Now” panel. It could show a stream of check-ins by friends who are actually at the Place where an event is being held. A total check-ins counter could also help users gauge the overall popularity of an event.

Photos and Other Content

While Places lets users check their friends in, simply saying you’re somewhere with friends isn’t nearly as compelling as photographic evidence. Facebook could add photo uploads to the check-in screen to let users simultaneously tag friends as being in the photo and at the Place. Friends elsewhere could then see just how long the line is at the bar, or just how sunny it is in the park.

Enabling photos, videos, notes, or other content to be tagged with a Place would allow Facebook to make content recommendations based on your location. Imagine walking down a city block while browsing photos of the back patios of nearby cafes, or reading notes of poetry inspired by a nearby vista point. Further, if the person uploading the content made it available to everyone, Facebook could enable a Places page admin to link to the content from their Places page. Places could even become a factor in EdgeRank, Facebook’s news feed algorithm, helping determine what content appears in your news feed based on its proximity to you.

Each person’s network generates so much content, developing Places and proximity into a new trait for determining relevancy could help Facebok ensure its users are engaged as possible with its core products. Third-parties are scrambling to develop innovative apps around the new Places APIs, so Facebook should use this lead time to define its own intentions by integrating Places across its existing services.