Facebook Plans to Stake Its Location Claim Next Month

Facebook plans to add friend location information as soon as next month, reports The New York Times Bits blog today. Honestly, this news is so expected that the fact that it was reported using anonymous sources attributed as “several people briefed on the project” only makes it a little more certain than it was before.
But Bits’ Nick Bilton does offer the following details:
* Facebook plans to announce the feature at the Facebook developer conference f8 in April.
* It will offer users the ability to share information with friends as well as provide developers with APIs to bring in location info from other services.
* Facebook wants to target small business advertisers.
* Because of that strategy, Facebook thinks its competition is Google rather than Loopt, Foursquare and Gowalla.
I think a lot of the current fuss and hype over location services can get overblown because location makes the most sense at the platform level. Knowing where a user is can make just about every product useful — it’s not an end to itself. However, encouraging sharing and storing of location information is touchy, especially with Facebook’s history around privacy issues. Ultimately, Facebook — with its 100 million-plus mobile users — won’t be able to avoid competing with location-based startups, but it may be able to help them in the meantime by treating them as applications and/or games on top of its immense platform.
In other news today, Twitter started showing on its web site when users submitted geolocation information about a tweet using an application.
Related research from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):
Location: The Epicenter of Mobile Innovation
Please see the disclosure in my bio about Facebook.