Shalom Life | April 23, 2014

Resocialize Yourself with Facebook’s “Nearby Friends”

The new service is similar to Tinder, but with potentially less smoochin’

By: Graham Sigurdson

Published: April 18th, 2014 in Business » World

On Thursday, Facebook users in the United States were able to see which friends were nearby using a newly launched feature, 'Nearby Friends.' The app must be turned on by users, so unwillingly location broadcasts won’t be a concern.

Nearby Friends will use the user's GPS system via their smartphone to indicate which Facebook friends are nearby - assuming they also have the feature enabled. The feature won’t share the exact location of the individual, but will indicate when the user is ‘close’.

The app will allow for users to share a more exact location with a friends if they’d like to meet them. Friends will be able to see if someone is in a park, airport, or city block and, by default, the location will be shared for only an hour - which may be changed.

Nearby Friends’ release seems to be coming off the success of location-based romance apps like Tinder and Hinge. That said, unlike the “blind” characteristics of those apps, Facebook’s new feature will only let you to meet up with those who are already your friends.

Facebook has included a number of precautions into the app to avoid the privacy conflicts that often arise when they change features of the site. Andrea Vaccari, one of the product managers at Facebook, noted that the app won’t be available to users under the age of 18, saying that the feature will “make it easy to join your friends in the real world.”

With all these considerations in mind, the rollout of Nearby Friends will not hit all users on Thursday, instead arriving in the coming weeks and months. The feature will first go to those who often check into locations using Facebook.

Unlike many of their other features, Nearby Friends will not be a mandatory feature, which means it may not prove particularly popular.

Vaccari’s startup up, Glancee, was acquired by Facebook in 2012. Glancee was a service which allowed for users to meet people and friends who share similar interests. Since the acquisition, he’s been working on the new features for Facebook.

Vaccari noted that Facebook employees have been testing out the feature, with successes including two friends landing at the same airport at the same time from different flights, and sharing a ride home, or two friends meeting up in downtown San Francisco.

Nearby Friends isn’t solely intended for those closest friends often interact, but rather, will provide a way to spend time with those friends that you don't interact with on a regular basis. That said, users will be able to limit who they share their location with.

Facebook has stated that they do not plan to draw advertising revenue from the feature, noting that they do not target ads based on current location, instead using the “Current city” location from a profile to tailor ads based on IP addresses.

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