Facebook Announces Nearby Friends

Earlier this week, Facebook announced a new feature within Facebook allowing people to see the location of nearby friends. The feature will be released on IOS and Android devices in the coming weeks. For the time being, the feature will be opt in only, allowing people to enable the service only if they want.

The service works by allowing people to see their approximate distance from friends within a certain range. They will be able to send their exact location to friends who show up within a proximity. It will only show friends if both you and them have the application enabled. Additionally the app will only be available for use by persons 18 years old or older. The app is intelligent in that it looks patterns in contact between people to avoid pinging a user every time there coworker/Facebook friend shows up to work.

The app was built by the Glancee location sharing app team. The application works by pulling GPS coordinates regularly from the user. To be more energy efficient the app uses the built in accelerometer to determine whether or not the user is moving. It is able to save battery life in doing so, by only requesting GPS coordinates when the person is in motion. It is shown to have only half the energy impact of an app like Foursquare

The Glancee location sharing project was acquired by Facebook in 2012 and is headed by Andrea Vaccari. Despite the recent push by Facebook to market standalone apps, It was decided that nearby friends should be incorporated into the main Facebook application because its success and functionality is determined by the size of it’s user base.

In addition to its social application of locating nearby friends within the Facebook application it has also been released that the new feature will store location history for users who have enabled the feature. In doing so, Facebook hopes to eventually use the information for targeted advertising purposes. There is an obvious value to the information that such a feature can store.

The feature could potentially work to bring people together for face to face interaction, by alerting you of your friends nearby. Vaccari stated “the idea is to make it really easy to discover when someone is around you, and meet up and spend time together.” It will be interesting to see the affect this new feature has on other apps that provide similar services. If the information from nearby friends is incorporated into the API it will also be interesting to see what new functionality will be provided to new apps.