Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Will Facebook Debut a Foursquare-Lite Location Feature or a Real Competitor–or What?

Later today, as BoomTown previously reported, Facebook is likely to show off what it has been working on for a while now in the geo-location arena.

We’ll see whassup at 4:30 pm PT, when Facebook will hold a “news event” at the social-networking powerhouse’s HQ in Silicon Valley. (I will be liveblogging from it, natch.)

While most agree that the unveiling of the powerful social-networking site’s geo-location plans will have big impact, it will be much more interesting to see precisely what Facebook will do and how it innovates.

The company has certainly been talking about some sort of location feature for a long time–even as start-ups such as Foursquare and Booyah have grown like gangbusters–so much so that it has become a mini-waiting game in Silicon Valley.

But how Facebook integrates the hot trend into what it has built rather than bought–Facebook considered buying the New York-based Foursquare–is full of all kinds of complexities and possible sand traps.

Here is what I think it might–and should–show off:

NO PLAYING GAMES

There is plenty of that kind of silliness offered by others, and the badge, mayorships and general gaming is not really Facebook’s style.

In fact, gimmickry, which eventually becomes tiresome, is not really one of the tools in Facebook’s arsenal. Creating features–such as the Wall–that have become daily helpers is the ticket here.

In fact, it would be great if Facebook could go radically useful with a check-in feature, which would be for the rest of us who are not interested in broadcasting our presence at New York clubs into the wee hours.

Still, it would be nice to get all kinds of offers and freebies for using the service and giving up even more personal information to the hungry maw of this–still–Mark Zuckerberg production.

SEAMLESS THIRD-PARTY AGGREGATION

A must, given Facebook is all about integration and coordination for its users. It has already easily welcomed in all kinds of third-party services, and it must give developers on its platform geo-location capabilities.

So, any Facebook offering would need to integrate all the current location services, both on the Web site and in its mobile app.

That said, it is also important that Facebook also has a strong and effective offering of its own.

PLEASE MARK, I WANT SOME MORE

Location-sharing needs to be more than location-sharing, IMHO.

That’s because check-ins can become as inane as some Twitter posts.

In my bedroom! Now, in my bathroom! Now, in my kitchen. Hey from the 7-11! Aaaaaagh!

In fact, what is most useful about Foursquare is a part the service seems to give little attention to–user-generated info about various places.

Facebook could give truly helpful on-the-go info if it did a good job here, letting me know–for example–that I need to avoid the shrimp-puff appetizer at all costs or alerting me to the joys of some esoteric spa service.

Best of all, it would be nice if this info were not generated just by my friends, but by everyone. Because my friends are really boring.

WHAT HAPPENS ON FACEBOOK CHECK-IN, STAYS ON FACEBOOK CHECK-IN

Facebook has a long-running and much-deserved reputation for not treating privacy issues with enough concern and care.

While it is one thing to have a status update that you are enjoying 43 cold ones by the Jersey Shore with Snooki, it is quite another to geo-locate your trashy sojourn without a terrific level of control.

And, of course, controls that are comprehensible and easy to use.

Thus, some rules:

Any location service must be opt-in only.

Any location service must be set to private to start and allow users to change settings with each update.

Check-ins must be verified, so people cannot lie and manipulate the system.

The entire Facebook community of 500 million users must know exactly where Mark Zuckerberg is at every moment–wait, that’s just my secret wish.

Well, not a wish: All Facebook execs should publicly and actively be using the check-in services to let us all know that everyone is on the exact same page.


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