Los Angeles — In a surprising move, embracing the age old process of word-to-mouth publicity, social networking humongous has been hitting the mobile scene hard lately, and today it Facebook has just announced a huge revamp of their “Nearby” feature on its iOS and Android mobile apps, that turns it from a not-too-remarkable tracker of friends’ check-ins to an actual attempt at a personalized local recommendation engine, a move that could hurt Yelp and Foursquare in the location data wars.
Prior to today’s update, those who keenly observed Facebook’s mobile app saw that Nearby just told you who was around you. It was pretty simple, almost like what you would get with the early days of Foursquare, Highlight, Banjo, and other location-based services.
While Facebook basically dropped out of owning check-ins, it still wants users to depend on its apps for everything they need, including finding places to eat, drink, shop, and more. The company has now decided to expand upon using the massive amounts of data it had amassed from people checking-in, what they are Liking, tagging, and sharing — thus the Nearby update today. It will be rolling out later today and enables users to not only discover, but share their favorites with people they are connected to.
Now when you open up Nearby tab, you will see a search bar, a history list, and a bunch of new location categories — restaurants, nightlife, arts, hotels, shopping, etc. Each category has its own subcategories, like Mexican food inside restaurants or movie theaters inside the arts category.
In addition, from the left-hand menu, users can now find hotspots that friends have checked into, liked, or recommended. For specific locales — like somewhere to eat or sleep — the option includes categories like Restaurants and Hotels. Upon landing on a specific place, tap the location to see who has been there, and restaurant hours.
Now moving beyond the likes of Foursquare and Yelp, as you discover new places to visit, share them with friends by rating or recommending the locations. By doing so, your own suggestions become more personalized, Facebook locations and events product manager Josh Williams said in a statement.
Elaborating on the newly updated feature, the social media said, “Local businesses such as restaurants and salons have always relied on word-of-mouth recommendations, and now Nearby makes those recommendations relevant to people on the go looking for places around them,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. “Businesses with a Facebook Page and physical location will benefit from this update.”
In another statement, the company explained, “If you have a Page on Facebook with a location, your business has another way to be discovered by Facebook’s 600 million-plus mobile consumers,” Sue Young, a Facebook product marketing manager, said in a blog post.
In fact, Facebook is not just listings locations arbitrarily, or based on their global popularity. With Nearby, the social media giant is using true social recommendations to find the best places for you based on your friends’ interactions. Let’s say your good friend Jimmy just gave an Indian restaurant a few miles away from you a great rating when he checked-in last night. Well, there is a good chance that Facebook’s Nearby algorithm would put that location front and center for you.
“When someone looks for a place, the results that appear in their Nearby list are based on things like their friends’ recommendations, ratings, check-ins, and likes,” says Facebook.
Of course, this is not a one-way street, so once you choose a location, you will be presented with Facebook’s redesigned location pages which include friends who have been there, hours, a map, star ratings, and reviews. And, after you have experienced the location, Facebook wants you to share that experience with your friends through rating and reviewing as well.
Nearby is being rolled out later today, which means that not everyone is going to get it at the same time. It is available for iPhone and Android devices.