LOS ANGELES (CBS) On Wednesday, Facebook made their leap into the world of geolocation launching Facebook Places, where you can basically update your status and tag yourself in pictures based on location. At the Silicon Valley launch, they even had their competitors like Foursquare on stage as one of the third party API's they would be partnering with. Was this an establishment of peaceful ties? Were the two platforms who have basically established and led the geolocation movement supposed to be the cheerleaders for the Facebook guerilla? The question on reporters and users minds was how is this not a Foursquare killer? While FB Places still remains simple with no badges, coupons and incentives like Foursquare, we all know it's only a matter of time, right? How can the platform of 2.8 million users and growing compete against a 500 million behemoth?
I spoke to co-founder Dennis Crowley over Skype video from his new New York City headquarters about the news:
"We knew Facebook was going to do this all along. We've always thought check-ins weren't interesting. It's what you do after the check-ins. So you get someone to tell us where they are and you can get and offer all these interesting services after that, like where should you go next, what type of places you would enjoy, who are the people should you meet up with. There's really interesting services that you can build on like the history of the types of places that people go to and enjoy."
So what does Dennis think of the reports that "Facebook Will Crush Foursquare"?
"People talk about Facebook being a competitor to Foursquare, we're both doing check-ins, we're both doing places the services are kind of dissimilar. If you look at what a Facebook status update is and what a tweet is, they're kind of the same thing. They're both 140 characters but everyone knows that they're different. They feel different and I think the same thing applies to us. A check-in is not a check-in across multiple services. They mean different things on different services... For us, it's don't get distracted by what everyone else is doing. We've battled against a bunch of other services in the space and by keeping focused on what we want to do and building things we're passionate about we've done pretty well and we're going to continue to do the same thing. We're never going to get 500 million users overnight."
That is true, and Dennis tells me Foursquare did see the biggest day they've ever had with a 20-28 percent increase in sign ups. "This is funny because there are so many articles saying Facebook is going to crush foursquare and I'm coming out saying no it's a good thing, because Facebook is going to go out and teach millions and millions of users what check-ins are, what location based services are, why all this stuff is interesting."
In the short run that might be the case but how many services do you really want to login into every day to stay connected to friends and the world around you? Even Dennis' own 96-year old grandmother mentioned the obvious to him in a voicemail, " I want to know if this Face-Book is like yours. It sounds like Four-Squared, but without the fun."
Fun is awesome, but how sustainable is it in terms of revenue and a long-term business plan when Facebook is clearly headed in the same direction? "To be honest, we're not terribly focused on revenue and we have the luxury of doing that because we've raised a big round of financing and it gives us a couple of years to keep doing interesting things and then figure out those questions later. Ultimately, a lot of the revenue now will come from those partnerships we're doing now and partnerships with local merchants. Doing specials we're doing now, but making them stronger. We've modeled it out and we feel it's something we can pull off."