Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Are You Ready, Foursquare? Here Comes Facebook.

Okay, Dennis Crowley: Hope you’ve figured out the whole take-Yahoo’s-money-or-not thing. Because here comes Facebook.

The social network is finally ready to start rolling out its location service this month and has linked up with McDonalds (MCD) for the launch, Advertising Age reports.

As early as this month, the social-networking site will give users the ability to post their location within a status update. McDonald’s, through digital agency Tribal DDB, Chicago, is building an app with Facebook would allow users to check in at one of its restaurants and have a featured product appear in the post, such as an Angus Quarter Pounder, say executives close to the deal.

It’s easy enough to make fun of this one, because really, who wants to admit to eating an Angus? (Had one in September 2007. Awful.) But then comes everyone else:

Executives with knowledge say it was negotiated as part of a bigger media buy on Facebook, and McDonald’s will be the first marketer to take advantage of the service.

The fast feeder won’t be alone for long. While McDonald’s is expected to be involved in the rollout in the next few weeks, execs at other digital shops have begun to spec out location-based campaigns in anticipation of Facebook’s impending functionality, which will allow users to include their location in a status update.

Internet scribes get accused, with justification, of slapping the “-killer” suffix on anything and everything. But this one really is a threat to Foursquare.

Not only can Facebook replicate every feature on the much-hyped service, but it has something Foursquare won’t be able to boast of for a very long time: A sales team to match the location service up with big brands and a self-service ad platform that local businesses can plug into.

Add all of this to a user base of 450 million (!) people and it really is a problem for Foursquare, if Facebook wants it to be.

And that’s pretty much the defense I’ve heard when I bring up Facebook’s competitive threat to Foursquare boosters: “People always worry about giant Web company X stomping on zippy startup Y, but that almost never happens. Because giant Web companies are lumbering beasts that can’t move fast enough to take on zippy start-ups, and they don’t really care to, anyway.”

And maybe that will turn out to be true, here, too. If not, it may make all the talk of $100 million offers seem awfully hopeful.


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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik