Social networking software

Facebook, Twitter Ready Location-Based Features

Facebook and Twitter are preparing to flip the switch on features that will allow you to share your location with your friends at any time. Facebook is reportedly revving up to introduce the feature, while Twitter is ready to enable the changes on its site any moment now.

Facebook will add friend location information starting next month, according to a report in The New York Times. To be introduced at the F8 developer conference in April, Facebook status geolocation will enable you to share with your friends the location from where you submitted your update.

There are over 400 million Facebook users, and around 100 million of them update their status from mobile devices such as smartphones. In this context, location information attached to your status would enable the social network to target small business advertisers.

But Facebook status geolocation information has another rival just around the corner. Twitter, which posts over 50 million 140-characters long messages per day, is also prepared to flip the switch on geolocation features. Twitter is already allowing users of 3rd party clients to attach their location info to tweets, but the feature is notably missing from the site itself.

On Tuesday, as the news of Facebook's geolocation intentions was revealed, Twitter briefly turned on the geolocation feature. MG Siegler of TechCrunch noted the appearance of the online feature in a story, but shortly after, Twitter disabled it. The brief encounter signals that Twitter is just putting the final touches on the feature, and is expected to go live during the SXSW conference starting Friday.

While it's still unclear how Facebook's geolocation feature will work, Twitter offered a glimpse of its own during the short appearance of the feature on Tuesday. Twitter's geolocation feature will show maps overlaying individual tweets and on the main stream, together with place names and your location.

Geolocation is quite a big deal for social networks, and an increasing numbers of services are starting to integrate it. However, my concerns over the implications of millions of users publishing their location continuously still stand.

Back in August, when Twitter enabled the opt-in API for geolocation, I gave three reasons why it is cool: you can get social recommendation from real people, relevant localized news, and find friends and cool people around you.

However, balancing this act is tough to follow, as I gave three reasons why you shouldn't use it: criminals are tweeting/reading Facebook statuses too, even more advertising in your face, and the lack of control over who actually sees your location.

To top it all up, Facebook doesn't exactly have the best track record when it comes to protecting users' privacy, and with a bit on mishap (happened to Google too, with Buzz), it could easily turn into a privacy nightmare.

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