Facebook Places Will Be About More Than Just a Check-In

Facebook’s long-awaited entry in the location-based sweepstakes is coming soon, a spokesman for the giant social-networking company tells CNET’s Caroline McCarthy. But while CNET says the new feature will integrate existing “check -in” information from other services that use the Facebook Platform and the open graph protocol, it’s likely that when Facebook Places launches, it will be far more than just a check-in API. As the social network has said in the past, it thinks about places as more than just location data associated with a status update.

According to the CNET post, the Facebook feature will “take the form of an application programming interface (API) for third-party companies on the Facebook developer platform, integrating existing ‘check-in’ start-ups.” The report says that at least one startup providing a location-based service has been told that it might want to change its thumbs-up rating to a “like” in preparation for being integrated into Facebook’s upcoming feature.

McCarthy also echoes earlier reports that the social network has partnered with Localeze, the company that provides location data to Twitter and other services, and says that Facebook has completed a $10-million acquisition of location startup Hot Potato, and will be moving founder Justin Shaffer to California to work on Places. Facebook also recently bought Nextstop, a user-generated travel recommendation site founded by a team of former Google staffers.

While an API that connects location services and apps through the Facebook Platform will almost certainly be part of Facebook’s new features, there have been a number of signs that the social network is thinking about a “place” as more than just a way to add location information to a status update, or to “like” a restaurant when you are nearby. One of the indicators that the company was thinking more broadly about location came earlier this year, in a Facebook blog post about changes to the network’s privacy policies. The post said the company was originally thinking about location features as just a way of “adding location to something you post,” but it had expanded the idea to include a number of different elements that might apply to the concept of a “place.”

What exactly those elements might be hasn’t become clear yet, but they will almost certainly involve user-generated content such as photos and videos, as well as Yelp-style reviews, all tied to a location (Hot Potato also aggregated user posts and media around places and events). Facebook will likely allow Foursquare and other location services to feed data from their platforms and users into the social network, provided they want to abide by the terms of the API and the open-graph protocol. But it’s clear that the company wants to expand the idea of location beyond simply a process of “checking in” and getting badges.

That will place some significant pressure on Foursquare (which Facebook reportedly tried to acquire earlier this year) to step up its game a little and give users a reason to stick around, instead of dropping the app for the biggest game in town.

Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Flickr user Dunechaser

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