Facebook releases and then pulls 'Find Friends Nearby'
Published Jun 27 2012, 11:01 BST | By Andrew Laughlin
Facebook offered a hint to its future plans for location-based services with the launch of its "Find Friends Nearby" feature this month, only to immediately pull the service. Wired
noticed that the newly-listed social network released the new feature on its iOS and Android apps, giving Facebook mobile users a landing page to find other users who were within a certain vicinity.
The website noted that this was another indication of Facebook's desire to broaden its mobile experience, which is where an increasing number of its users access the network.
But Find Friends Nearby was pulled shortly after it was released, and no official announcement followed on the service.
After contacting a Facebook spokesperson, Wired
was told that Find Friends Nearby was never an official release, rather just a product in testing phase.
"This wasn't a formal release - this was just something that a few engineers were testing," said the spokesperson.
"With all tests, some get released as full products, others don't. Nothing more to say on this for now, but we'll communicate to everyone when there is something to say."
But still, the testing of Find Friends Nearby gives an indication of Facebook's goal to more closely connect its mobile users and also placate its hungry new investors by unlocking mobile revenues. Wired
reported that Find Friends Nearby came out of a Facebook Hackathon event, the all night coding drives that the company uses to brainstorm new ideas.
The site said that Facebook software engineer Ryan Patterson created the feature and initially called it "Friendshake".
In a comment on TechCrunch
, Patterson had said that the feature would help connect people with other Facebook users they have just met, such as at an event or party.
Essentially, the idea would be that instead of having to search on Facebook for the name of a person you have just met, you could just open Find Friends Nearby and quickly add the right profile based on location.
Patterson said that the app would use the phone's GPS co-ordinates to determine the user's location, and it would stop tracking this as soon they left the Find Friends Nearby page.
After briefly testing the service, Wired
said that it was fairly basic, and did not allow users to discover new people based on shared interests, or mutual friends.
Whilst Find Friends Nearby is no longer available, it is considered likely that Facebook will soon roll out some kind of similar service in the future.
In May, Mark Zuckerberg's company acquired startup Glancee, which offers an app that makes it "easy to discover the hidden connections around you, and meet interesting people".
According to reports, Glancee technology has already been integrated into Facebook, suggesting that a deeper location-based friend discovery service is coming soon to Facebook's mobile apps.
But Facebook will need to be careful as services that track people's location pretty much always attract controversy, and the company is already being watched very closely by privacy regulators in the US and Europe.
Only this week, Facebook was criticised for swapping the default email addresses on all user accounts to its own @facebook.com system without first seeking permission