Facebook Launches Location-Based Service

new Facebook service: Facebook Places
new Facebook service: Facebook Places

Suppose you want to know where you are -- geographically. Better still, suppose you want to know where your friends are and they want to know where you are. Facebook has launched a location-based service for its subscribers. Facebook executive Michael Eyal Sharon wrote on Aug. 18 that "Starting today, you can immediately tell people about that favorite spot with Facebook Places. You can share where you are and the friends you're with in real time from your mobile device."

In a post on the Facebook blog, Sharon added "You have the option to share your location by 'checking in' to that place and letting friends know where you are. You can easily see if any of your friends have also chosen to check in nearby."

The new service requires the latest Facebook application for the Apple (AAPL) iPhone, which is a coup for the consumer electronics company. The social media feature may even help it sell more handsets. Members can also access Places from touch.facebook.com if their mobile browsers support HTML 5 and geolocation.

The service will not only allow other Facebook members to know where you are, but also what you are doing. "When you check in, you can also tag friends who are with you, just as you can tag a friend in a status update or photo. You can post an update along with your check-in to tell people more about what you are doing," the blog post said.

The use of GPS features in not new to mobile handsets, of course. But with Facebook's huge subscriber base the service gives the feature new usefulness. Privacy advocates will likely go wild over the service and assume Facebook will use it to sell location-based ads. Maybe the company will -- it will need to figure out some way to pay for the service, even if not all of its members like it.