Neil Turner's Blog

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Foursquare Thursday – Competition: Facebook Places

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This is the fourteenth post in a series about Foursquare – read part one, part two, part three, part four, part five. part six, part seven part eight, part nine, part ten, part eleven, part twelve, part thirteen and part fourteen.

Back in April (!), I compared Foursquare to its main competitor, which is arguably Gowalla. But many people use a location-based network without knowing it, via Facebook Places.

Facebook Places has been around for some time and lets you check in to places, in order to tell your friends where you are; fundamentally this is the same mechanic as Foursquare, except that there aren’t any points or mayorships to work towards; it’s simply to advertise your location. This is a key difference – with Foursquare, you’re rewarded for checking in frequently. With Facebook, you’ll probably annoy a lot of your friends if you check in everywhere you go. Consequently, it’s probably better to only use Facebook Places when you check in somewhere interesting.

Where Facebook has encroached somewhat on Foursquare’s territory is with its Facebook Places Deals – these are very much like Foursquare’s Specials, in that potential discounts or special offers are available to those who check in. It launched in the US in 2010 and later in the UK in January this year, though after the initial fanfare I’ve noticed many of those that signed up have withdrawn their offers here; in fact, the Facebook Deals page doesn’t work in the UK at present, suggesting that the feature has reverted to being US-only.

Data integrity is a big issue in my experience. There are lots of duplicates, misplaced venues and junk venues, plus plenty of spelling mistakes. Facebook has started tackling this and you may notice that on the right hand side of some place pages on the web site, it may show some duplicates and ask you to identify them. Presumably if these get enough votes, they’ll be merged. It’s an interesting approach; finding and merging duplicates on Foursquare is done by human superusers, but then Facebook has a much, much larger userbase.

In general, Facebook Places is a very simple service, designed for occasional use to let people know you’re out. Foursquare is for people with more of an interest in location-based networks, who also want to compete with other users. I know which one I prefer but Facebook Places has its place. (pun intended)

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