By Pete Deluca
Last night, in front of a packed crowd at Facebook Headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif., the popular social networking site revealed their latest innovation – “Places.”
The goal, as President and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said, is to take the virtual relationships created through Facebook and bring them into the physical world. The application will allow Facebook users to "check in" to various locations to show their online friends where they are in real time.
For example, when you visit a Dunkin Donuts, you could "check in" using an iPhone, which will in return post a message on your friends’ news feeds telling them where you're stopping to get your morning cup of coffee. Another feature of the application lets you see other Facebook users that are currently at that Dunkin Donuts, and which of your friends were there in the past.
If the service sounds familiar it is because the concept is eerily similar to Foursquare – the location-based application that attracted over a million users since March of 2009. But Foursquare, unlike “Places,” allows visitors to earn virtual badges and titles for frequenting an establishment – a feature that Foursquare believes distinguishes the two products enough and still gives them a competitive advantage.
The news of Facebook’s latest “innovation” received criticism as another blatant rip off by the company. To some, “Places” is seen as Facebook’s latest bullet on a long list of “copy-cat” features taken from other websites; wall messages (MySpace), photo albums (Flickr), video uploads (YouTube), status updates (Twitter).
As of this morning criticisms of “Places” is limited to personal blogs – which is a good sign for Zuckerberg, whose lack of business ethics have long been rumored. He is currently being sued by New York web designer and former employer Paul Ceglia for allegedly stealing his social network concept and a movie about the birth of Facebook is due out this fall with the tag line “You Don’t Make 500 Million Friends Without Making a Few Enemies.”
The saying is that “imitation is the greatest form of flattery.” But I cannot imagine how I would feel if my idea was tweaked and distributed to 500 million people as a company’s new “innovation.”
I am sure that Foursquare creator Dennis Crowley doesn’t feel very flattered.
Pete Deluca is an Associate Account Executive. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.