Facebook prepping location-based ‘check-in’ service

Foursquare, Gowalla and MyTown should be shaking in its boots because Facebook is preparing its own “check-in” service that could make these fledgling services irrelevant, according to code dug up by TechCrunch.

There’s code in the touch version of the mobile site that will pump in a “Places” tab in between the “Friends” and “Inbox” categories. The JavaScript code will grab the location from your phone and it will reportedly include your latitude, longitude, speed, heading, and altitude (if possible) and the ability to check-in to locations. What type of places will you be able to check-in to? Late last week it leaked out that McDonald’s will be the first to use these location-based features to offer customers deals and discounts on its grub.

You foodies out there can laugh at McDonald’s all you want but it is utterly and completely mainstream. These types of companies are generally not quick to hop on to the latest online or mobile bandwagon, so it’s also a strong endorsement to the staying power of Facebook and its approach to LBS. Also, I don’t care what anybody says – a Big Mac and fries taste really good once in a while.

LBS on a phone is the holy grail for marketers and service providers because these handsets contain intimate information. This is why Twitter is also making a push toward the check-in game, and also why the government is butting into the mobile advertising market.

What’s in it for you? The discounts and relevant ads are easy examples, but there’s also something powerful about being able to see where your friends are at any given time. Of course, this is also incredibly scary and that’s why it’s up to us to make sure these companies handle the granularity of controls properly. I’ve heard from other LBS providers that it could only take one high-profile location slip-up to torpedo the whole industry, so you can be sure we’ll continue to monitor these companies to make sure LBS is done in a responsible way.

[Via TechCrunch]

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