The world’s favourite 800 pound gorilla is mobile enough

Facebook held a Mobile event yesterday where they had a bunch of announcements?:

  • Application updates for Android and iPhone, both now have access to Places and Groups
  • Single Sign On API which means you can log in to any application on your phone with 2 taps; no usernames, no passwords, no captchas.
  • Open access to places API – so far most applications could only read into the API, now all applications can write and search.
  • Deals platform – allowing business to have special deals/offers for users.
  • Oh and they also announced that there are 200 million users who use Facebook on Mobile. So there’s at least 25% of the Facebook population using Facebook mobile (I’m going by high estimates for total 600million users).

These were the announcements made by Facebook but there are heavy implications and strong insights that can be derived from these. Here’s what I make of it.

Facebook makes Foursquare irrelevant

Facebook, the world’s largest social network and platform was seen as lagging behind Geo Location earlier this year. Everyone’s favourite geo location darling was Foursquare who had a great idea. But that was it; all Foursquare had was a great idea. Foursquare has been unable to adapt and improve considerably since its launch. The idea of mayorships and points got stale quickly and the only thing that could have people sticking around is the idea of rewards. Unfortunately with slow approval times for businesses (some like Wild Peeta had it in a week, I had to wait 3-4 weeks) the service wasn’t quick enough and this definitely could have a thorn in its growth path. Some local businesses in the UAE did get specials onto Foursquare but that took a while too. This is a luxury Foursquare cannot afford since that is its main selling point. Even the newly international app SCVNGR (which I am super excited about) has challenges, treks and rewards going for which are a lot of fun, but faces stiff competition. Facebook however has the entire social element  going to keep its huge user base busy while they roll our Places worldwide. In the mean time Facebook went ahead and launched Deals which added real utility to the location element. Facebook wins, even if it is in a few weeks/months of from today and Foursquare starts to become irrelevant.

Facebook wins by solving the Geo Networking fragmentation

By opening up access to the Read, Write and Search API to all applications, Facebook has essentially turned most Geo Networking applications into clients that use the Facebook Places service, assuming this is what they do and they would be stupid not to. You can now check in to Foursquare, tag your Facebook friends on it and your friend on Gowalla can see where you checked in. Of course Facebook wins and they do it by bringing the Geo Networking fragmentation at one locus point; Facebook Places.

Mobile! Social! Local!   Mobile! Social! Local!

These are three words Eric Tseng, Head of Mobile repeated a few times and for good reason too. Facebook has more than tripled its mobile userbase from around 65 million this time last year to about 200 million yesterday. If that won’t make you a believer in mobile than not much else will. Mobile by its very essence is local and the growing numbers point people want to be social, locally. Businesses that understand and adapt to this will succeed. Groupon is a business that gets it; they’re local by nature, social by strategy and now increasingly mobile thanks to Facebook.

My blog title of course talks about Facebook’s (and the entire industry’s) growing emphasis on Mobile but it also talks about how mobile (quick to move) Facebook has been at rolling out new products. The 2000 person company has been agile enough to adapt and evolve to just as well as it leads the industry and that has been a major factor for it’s success. This is why Twitter and Google are so far behind in location and why they should feel threatened.

A quote from The Social Network stuck by me which describes Facebook perfectly – “It’s never finished“. My last post talks about how I feel Facebook might have less conversation and more activity on the platform now, and maybe it might have had a negative connotation to it. But now I feel, and as the platform is growing, that might not be a bad thing. Social doesn’t necessarily mean just talking and conversing, it can mean doing things together and sharing the things we do ourselves. It’s about bringing our connections deeper into our lives and enhancing our social lives further.


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What is your Foursquare Door policy?

A lot has been said about privacy on the internet – both in terms of what we put and who share it with. With the omnipresent nature of Facebook, the social network has evolved far beyond the tool it used to be to connect with existing friends. Facebook, similar to Twitter, is being used to form new relationship and make new connections.

Foursquare and other Location based networks, on the other hand are meant to be for your existing friends only, especially given the sensitive nature of the information they are built around. And that is what Dennis Crowley, founder of Foursquare would want you to believe as well. He has said before that Facebook is a place where people may become friends but on Foursquare people connect with people who “they truly wouldn’t mind running into during a night out”

A glance through my Social Graph paints a picture where users (including me) connect with people they may be acquainted with – over Facebook, Twitter and other networks – but may not necessarily have met each other, let alone be friends.

This leaves me wondering, what is your door policy on Foursquare? Do you accept every request that comes your way? Or only the ones you interacted with on a different social network? Or do you strictly maintain it to real life connections?


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The Ethics and Etiquette surrounding Foursquare checkins.

With every passing day I see the rise in the number of users jumping on the Foursquare bandwagon, and with that rise comes an increase in connections and an increase in the activity. I’ve been observing the growth in Foursquare activity and have noticed a lot of things that have got me thinking on what the ethics and etiquette surrounding this location based network are.Foursquare badges

Given the competitive nature of Foursquare, it is natural for users, including those in Dubai to clock as many check-ins as possible . But how far should an individual go in this endless quest for points, badges and mayorship.

The mundane everyday check in.

Most users, during weekdays, only really go from home to work and back. Does it make sense for them to check in at both those places then? There are those who bring a privacy element to this, but this isn’t about that. It’s the sheer inanity of these checkins. Although there are those who say checking into work helps ‘brand’ the place.

Couples: Checking in in pairs.

Much like offline (*gasp*) social networks, couples in which both partners are online have a huge set of connections that are common to both of them. If they spend all their time together, at the same places do they both check in? Sure, they’re both individuals with their own accounts right, I mean as long as they aren’t quarrelling for mayorship. Or is it similar to a situation where a couple gets, well, couply, on Facebook. We’ve all had those friends right?

The compulsive Geonetworker

Imagine you go into a mall for a shopping spree, do you just check in to the mall? Or do you check in to the mall and then check in to every single store you go to. Given the loyalty building objective of Foursquare for businesses, they would promote the latter. And the users gain their badges and mayorship. But this scenario does have an inexplicable sense of the ridiculous too. After all, walking less than 5 metres to the next store doesn’t really count for ‘Travel’ in ‘Travel Bonus’ right?

Exhibit B: if you scan for venues and you find the venue, only misspelt; do you check in to that anyway or do you add a new venue with the corrected spelling fully well knowing you’ll get the extra 5 points for adding a new venue (and a chance at mayorship)?

I’m not passing judgements here, nor am I saying what’s right or wrong. I myself have been  guilty of some of those actions listed above and continue to practice the others.

Given the competitive spirit underpinning the platform, where do you think the boundaries of fairplay end and those of cheating begin?

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Geonetworking – the new Mantra in Social Media Marketing in Travel and Tourism

I discuss the use of GeoNetworking by businesses and institutions in Travel and Tourism industry to promote tourism in the newest edition of Travel and Tourism news.

“Platforms like Facebook and Twitter have taken relationship marketing and permission marketing to a whole new level. But don’t blink yet, the next step in social networking and media is already here and it is telling you where to go and who to meet.”

Read the entire article here on the Travel and Tourism news website

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A World with Location enabled Facebook

Geo Social Networking and Location based services and applications are all the buzz these days. Not only do we have applications like FourSquare and Gowalla and the many others battling it out for the top spot in this category, Twitter and Firefox also enabled the ability to determine the location of a user. The future of Social Networking has started to look increasingly ‘local’. But what is the biggest social player doing about it?

Facebook, right now, doesn’t have any location features but there has been an increase in chatter about it unveiling something at it’s developer conference – F8 – that takes place at the end of April.

So what can a world with a location enabled Facebook look like?

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