Facebook on Wednesday threw the switch on a new feature that lets US members of the social networking service share their whereabouts with friends while on the move.
Facebook Places marks the firm’s hotly anticipated first step into “location-based” services that have been catching on with people who own smartphones equipped with satellite position tracking capabilities.
“Starting today, you can immediately tell people about that favorite spot with Facebook Places,” said Places product manager Michael Eyal Sharon.
“You can share where you are and the friends you’re with in real time from your mobile device.”
Facebook members can “check-in” at restaurants, bars, or other social venues and let their friends at the social network instantly know where they are and with whom.
A Places application for iPhone handsets was released, and social network members with smartphones with Web browser software that supports geo-location and HTML5 could use Places at the mobile website touch.facebook.com.
“If you are not in the US you can still see if friends are using it here but you will not be able to check-in,” Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said at a festive Places launch event at the firm’s headquarters in Northern California.
Facebook said it plans to eventually extend the feature to all smartphones and to the social networks more than 500 million members worldwide.
As if anticipating backlash that seems to come with each change at Facebook, executives and engineers there stressed that privacy was being respected and that users control how location information is shared.