Facebook introduces Nearby Friends feature to increase user engagement

After spending billions on acquisitions and developing other apps, Facebook is returning focus to its core app, the one that is used by close to a billion people.
By Ananth Baliga  |  April 17, 2014 at 4:31 PM
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MENLO PARK, Calif., April 17 (UPI) -- Facebook has encouraged users to share everything about themselves with their friends. Well, almost everything. And now they want users to share their locations using a new feature called Nearby Friends.

The new in-built, opt-in feature will display a user's location, should he or she choose to use the feature, to friends who may be nearby, getting the to spend more time together in the real world instead of online. The feature will available to both Android and iOS users.

Nearby Friends was built by the Glancee location sharing app team led by Andrea Vaccari, which was acquired by Facebook in 2012. The app adds a list of nearby friends to a user's Facebook app, and will send notifications if a user's friends come within a certain distance.

Vaccari said that “the idea is to make it really easy to discover when someone is around you, and meet up and spend time together.”

Facebook, and other similar services, have long been criticized for isolating people and destroying social interaction.

The new feature could spell trouble for established location sharing apps like FourSquare and Google Latitude and challenge the friend gathering features of other startups like Highlight, Banjo and Sonar.

The app is sure to raise questions about privacy, an issue that has plagued Facebook, even facing the ire of the regulatory agencies. But Facebook seems to have covered its bases this time.

Nearby Friend is opt-in, so users can ignore it if they aren't interested in using it, and is only available to users over the age of 18. The feature uses a reciprocal privacy model, so users can see the proximity of their friends only if their friends have the feature switched on.

[Facebook] [TechCrunch]

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