Here Comes Facebook’s Move Into Location Sharing …

Location

With services that make it easy for users to share their location—like FourSquare and Gowalla—gaining buzz and usage, Facebook is finally set to fire back with its own move into the hot location-aware space. The NYT reports that the social network will release a new feature in late April that will let users share their locations; the social network also plans to let outside developers build Facebook apps that incorporate that info.

As the paper points out, the move isn’t a surprise at all; Back in October, Facebook actually hinted that such a feature was on the way in an update to its privacy policy, which made mention of the possibility of a service that would include “location sharing.” And with social networks from Twitter to the new Google Buzz letting users tag their locations it only made sense that Facebook would follow suit, especially considering the promise of geotargeted ads.

Asked for comment, a Facebook spokeswoman says, “We are constantly experimenting with new ideas and products internally. We don’t have anything more to share at this time.”

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Updating Your Facebook: The New Proof of Life

See this guy? This guy is Jose Simian, Mediaite’s “Meet The Prensa” columnist. He’s also the person responsible for giving me a minor heart attack last weekend. Why? Jose is Chilean, and has been in Chile right with his wife and young son for the past several weeks. Including through last week’s devastating earthquake.

He is okay, thank God. But it took over a day to find that out — a day of silence on his Facebook page.

During that time, I started to panic. His Gchat “dot” — the signifier of whether someone is online, usually some variation of green, red or orange if they are — was an unrelenting gray. His Twitter hadn’t been touched for over a week. Meanwhile, on Facebook, worried posts from friends in English and Spanish were mounting. Jose is a web-savvy guy, and it seemed the most obvious question in the world to me: If he was okay, wouldn’t he let the world know?

It seems a rather dorky question right now — as it turns out, Jose was more focused on driving 17 hours through earthquake-ravaged Chile to reunite with his family. But once I knew he was safe and sound (via a response to one of my frantic emails, followed by — yes — updating that Facebook page), I started to wonder about the new ways in which we keep tabs on those who are dear to us.

When I go a stretch without tweeting, I will occasionally get an email from my mom, checking in. I always find this amusing, but also gratifying: Thanks to Twitter, I can keep in touch with my parents and let them in on what I’m doing in a way that even the regular phone calls of a doting daughter can’t do. (One of the funniest emails I’ve ever received was a notification from Facebook informing me that my dad wanted to be my friend.) This is just when things are fine, mind you; I can’t imagine not leaping for my Blackberry in the middle of a disaster to let people know I was all right. By “people” I mean anyone you need to know such things — Facebook and Twitter and other such online markers are by far the most efficient ways of disseminating such information. It’s not the most personal — only the most wired (and heartless) digiphile would let their mom know they were okay via a Tweet before an email or phone call! — but it’s the opposite of impersonal, too. Our Facebook and Twitter pages, websites and Flickrs, Gchat status and FourSquare checkins — wherever it is we live online — are extensions of who we are, and representations of same in the digital space. We form relationships there that may be entirely different than those we enjoy “IRL” (In Real Life), but they are real even so. For those who spend big chunks of their lives online, who they relate to the most may well be a factor of who happens to be on Gchat; one of my best friends, God bless her, has a habit of calling me from her car at 5:30 pm as she drives home from work in Toronto. We connect that way once ever five calls, because I remember to turn on my phone the way she tweets (which is to say, rarely). She’s one of the people I’d call to tell I was fine if something happened, but she’d also know to be worried — really worried — if suddenly, my online presence went dark.

There is precedent for this, of course. I was in New York for 9/11 and remember the flood of emails coming in, and the constant busy signals on cellphones, too. Philip Bump documented the online reaction that day on the anniversary last year, recalling how people turned to the net for answers. Here’s what he wrote then:

9/11 was, of course, the first of the major JFK-Challenger-Pearl Harbor-style crises to occur in the internet age, meaning that it has an electronic trail unprecedented in history. It is the first tragic moment in history (of hopefully only very few) that transpired on a relatively mature internet which distributed what information it could as rapidly as possible. Snopes might have frowned on what we were reading, but the internet was still pivotal in assuring that we understood what was happening. It was, perhaps, a key moment in the transition from television’s dominance to the supremacy of the web.

Social media has added a new dimension to this. Now everyone is their own potential broadcast outlet, contributing to the common pool of knowledge, but also telling their own story. I’ve had many conversations with people reflecting on what 9/11 would have been like with Twitter — and Twitpics (and as I write this from 30,000 feet on board an American Airlines flight bound for California, one more thing occurs to me: In-flight wifi. Imagine the information-sharing that might have been). The common thread, though, is that people would be active — leaping for that blackberry to add their update, documenting it all in real time. That is the impulse we now share as a modern society — an outgrowth, I think, of that same impulse that has always driven us to gather around the television. It’s the flipside of the impulse to know more — it’s the impulse to share, so that we all know more.

So that’s why I freaked out when Jose’s Facebook page lay dormant, except for message after worried message piling up. I figured that he would update it when he could, and the fact that it had taken hours and then a day for that to happen — well, in this wired era, an hour is a long time and a day is an eternity. I didn’t account for a 17-hour drive through and around wreckage in Chile, of course; sending an email is easy, as long as you can get to your technology. Until you do, though, there will be a vigil waiting at your Facebook page. In this wired era, the flipside is that it takes just as little time for people to let you know they care.

Full-sized image of Jose’s FB page — finally updated! — below, with permission; and yes, this is me shamelessly posting photos of him with his adorable son, Luca, in the newsroom at NY1, where he works at NY1 Noticias, and out in the crisp fall air of the West Village. Needless to say, I am glad they are okay!


Oscar Sunday Gets Social on Facebook

As most of you may know, this Sunday is the 82nd Academy Awards.  While I’m not happy with some of the retro changes (let’s be honest and say that the ten Best Pic nominees could’ve been whittled down to four films, including one that was completely overlooked, The Informant) we’ll see in this weekend’s ceremony, I thought it was worth pointing out some new social media promotion tactics the Academy is trying out this year.

For the first time, the Oscars will broadcast red carpet coverage online, thanks to their partnership with Facebook, and will give users like you a chance to ask your favorite actor a question.  According to their page:

“We know you’re used to seeing stars at the Academy Awards®, but now for the very first time you can get involved! Oscar.com has partnered with Facebook to bring you Oscar.com Live from the Red Carpet, a very special online pre-show that allows you to watch the stars walk the Red Carpet and answer questions from fans like you. Yes, you read that right!

Join hosts Lisa Guerrero and Brett Chukerman as they cover all the action unfolding outside the Kodak Theater. Using your Facebook account, you can send a message to them on the Red Carpet, and they’ll pass along the best questions and comments in real time to the stars that sashay by. But that’s not all! Rico Rodriguez (Manny from the ABC hit comedy Modern Family) will also be on hand to meet and interview fans in attendance, as they experience all the glitz and glamour right from the Red Carpet.”

For viewers who like options and have either Facebook or Twitter log-ins, they can go to APLive and see streaming coverage there as well.   APLive is also making this available on their Facebook page, but users will have to become a fan in order to see the coverage, so it’ll be interesting to see if the 1,373 fans of the page jumps to a significantly higher number over the weekend** (See update).   This streaming event is the first of many for the year-long partnership between APLive and Livestream.

If you really feel like you need more connection to this year’s awards, there are a few iPhone Apps available for download for this (again, let’s be honest) very crowded awards year.   One thing I probably will be checking out this weekend is Adam Shankman’s Twitter feed, one of the two being promoted on Oscar.com.

I don’t want to sound pessimistic or snobby.  There were some great films this year and I’ll take a moment to throw out my top picks for Best Picture:

  1. Up (Pixar just knows how to pull at the heartstrings)
  2. Inglorious Basterds
  3. The Informant (what movie? Netflix it when it comes out later this month)
  4. An Education (probably my pick of the year)
  5. Honorable Mention: Drag Me to Hell (I’m not being cute here. It really is a great film.)

Update:  We all know the winner’s from last night’s ceremony.  Another Update**: AP Live’s Facebook page now has 7,672 fans.

More Proof You May Not Want To Trust Facebook With Your Privacy

Business Insider’s Nick Carlson has just published a number of long posts, which are the result of a “long investigation into the origins of Facebook” and don’t appear to reflect too well on founder Mark Zuckerberg: the word ‘hacked’ comes up more than once.

The stories are based on a long investigation into the origins of Facebook that included interviews with more than a dozen sources familiar with aspects of what happened, as well as what we believe to be relevant IMs and emails from the period. Much of the information has never been reported.

The stories detail some troubling behavior by Facebook’s then 19-year old founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg. A source close to the company suggests that the fallout from this behavior has played a profound role in shaping Facebook’s current privacy policies and Mark’s current attitudes and conduct as a now 25-year old CEO.

You can read the opus here. But the overall conclusion I think we are supposed to draw from this expose is that this may not be a person with who you want to trust your privacy. Though perhaps you have already come to that conclusion.


Jon Stewart Plays Chatroulette, And We All Win

We’ve done a pretty good job of avoiding Chatroulette talk here. But this is worth breaking our unofficial ban: Jon Stewart’s take on the voyeur site–and, of course, the media’s obsession with it.

(This, by the way, is a good time to point out that the media love stories like Chatroulette, because they require nothing more than visiting a Web site. Bear this in mind when you see the next story about Twitter, Facebook, or whatever.)

Warning: Stewart’s clip, like Chatroulette, may not be safe for work, depending on the kind of place you work. But given that media grandees like Brian Williams, Diane Sawyer and Katie Couric found it fit to participate, you should probably be okay. And you should definitely watch it, somewhere.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Tech-Talch – Chatroulette
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Playdom Buys ‘Super Farkle’ Developer Offbeat Creations

Superfarkle

Playdom, which said it would use some of its recent $43 million funding round for acquisitions, is following through on that pledge. The social gaming company is buying up Offbeat Creations, the developer of several Facebook titles, including dice game Super Farkle, which has more than one million users. Super Farkle is by far Offbeat Creations’ most popular title; others include Be A Tycoon and Give A Heart.

This is Playdom’s third acquisition since its funding round; in November, it purchased another Facebook game developer, Green Patch, as well as iPhone game developer Trippert Labs.

Financial details of this deal were not released. Offbeat Creations’ three founders, as well as its 12 game designers, are joining Playdom’s Seattle studio.

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Facebook And Omniture Deepen Their Ties For Analytics And Marketing

Facebook

Facebook is going to be working more closely with web analytics provider Omniture (NSDQ: OMTR) to build up the social net’s strong attraction to marketers. The two began their collaboration about a year ago, mostly on developing analytics around the wide variety of Facebook apps and measuring user engagement. For Facebook, the deal is designed to keep the advertising unobtrusive—at least relative to other sites—while making it more lucrative by automating media buys on the site. For Omniture, which was acquired last year by Adobe (NSDQ: ADBE) for $1.8 billion, it’s a chance to move ahead of its competitors by aligning itself with a site that’s expected to realize significant ad growth over the next few years.

In addition to a wave of M&A activity in the analytics realm, there have also been a notable number of high-profile collaborations. A few weeks ago, for example, MTV Networks (NYSE: VIA) struck an arrangement with audience measurement firm Quantcast that’s designed to sharpen its ability to target demos across MTVN’s vast and varied 200 web properties.

Along with better analytics, the Omniture deal with Facebook promises to increase the ties among the marketers the two companies work with. The Facebook/Omniture announcement featured an outside voice of approval from Randall Reeves, senior manager, customer insights and analytics for Electronic Arts (NSDQ: ERTS). He pointed the EA’s recent $275 million acquisition of social gamer Playfish as part of its plans to introduce more networking for its products. And he says that both Facebook and Omniture working together will provide some of the heavy lifting for EA’s social net efforts. Release