Facebook is making changes again, but not everyone is giving the move a "like." As part of the new privacy and sharing features Facebook is rolling out, the social-media giant is nixing Places.
Until Thursday, you could only "check in" using the Places feature on your smartphone. Now you can add location to anything you do on Facebook.
"Lots of people use Facebook to talk about where they are, have been, or want to go. Now you can add location from anywhere, regardless of what device you are using, or whether it is a status update, photo or wall post," said Chris Cox, vice president of product at Facebook. "Of course, you can always choose not to add location at all."
A Boon for Foursquare
Although some Facebook users may like this change, it comes with a catch. Facebook has officially phased out the mobile-only Places feature. Settings associated with Places are also being phased out or removed. Facebook didn't offer any explanation for axing the feature, whose Facebook fan page has more than 250,000 fans.
"The yanking of the ability to check in, and then have that check-in display in one's Facebook feed, will no doubt disappoint those users who enjoy this type of engagement," said Jake Wengroff, global director of social-media strategy and research at Frost & Sullivan. "As such, Foursquare, Gowalla, Loopt and other LBS (location-based service) providers will seize this opportunity."
In a way, Wengroff said, Facebook is conceding defeat in the social check-in segment.
"Of course, Facebook is not doing away with location altogether, and will instead include 'location layering' to other content shared through the network," Wengroff added. "Location will still be a key metric as Facebook continues to refine its display advertising, deals and commerce offerings for advertisers."
Foursquare seems poised to jump on the opportunity. Although it may have felt threatened when Facebook originally rolled out the Places feature, there may be a windfall of users now that people are more aware of check-in features.
Foursquare is ready to welcome them, as well as businesses. Foursquare launched a feature called Pages in early August, hoping big brands would check it out. Any brand, organization or publication can create their own Page, gain followers, share tips, check in, and reach their fans. The service is akin to Facebook fan pages. So far, MTV, The New York Times, and Intel, among others, have started a Page.
Twitter Gets More Secure
In other social-media news, Twitter is taking some privacy steps of its own, rolling out HTTPS by default. The web protocol ensures transmission of a user's information is encrypted.
"Other web sites which handle personal accounts are waking up to the issue of HTTPS/SSL encryption, too," said Graham Cluley, a senior security analyst at Sophos, writing in his blog. "Google has led the way on enforcing HTTPS usage, with products like Gmail, Google Docs, and Google+ already making an SSL connection mandatory."
"HTTPS is still optional on Facebook, but there are hopes that the social-networking giant will enforce its use later this year once third-party apps play ball," he added. "I would certainly recommend enabling HTTPS on both Facebook and Twitter."