…it’s too early to tell Facebook’s overall intentions but it’s actually pretty amazing that it took Facebook so long to get into this game. Now that they have –  chances are that they will make everyone else irrelevant. Why?…simply because of their numbers. While competing services such as Gowalla and Foursquare require you to invite and connect with your friends, the fact is you still have to take the time out to do so and your friends have to cooperate by joining. Notwithstanding the fact that Foursquare offers Facebook Connect integration, it’s not as easy as it seems as friends continuously ask me “Why are you spamming me with that Foursquare site invite?” Facebook Places will not have this problem.

 While Foursquare and Gowalla offer services that enable users to enter tips for any given location (great for restaurants), along with popular game-like status features such as mayorship badges for frequent visitors, you can be sure that Facebook Places will add these features before long.

Given that Places is not up and functional as promised at launch yesterday and is still spitting out the error message “This feature will be available in your region soon”, many of us have not had a chance to fully demo the functionality, but regardless, this will make Facebook more valuable than ever as it finally makes the jump towards connecting those close to us while out and about in the real world. I’ll argue that this will in-fact become Facebook’s most popular feature before too long.

How else might Facebook blow out this idea, especially with advertisers, remains to be seen – but history tells us that they will lay low until adoption is as ubiquitous as posting photos and then we can expect localized offers and messages from retailers, restaurants, hotels and airlines as we travel about and check into our favorite places, as we serendipitously hope to bump into friends or meet and make more friends of friends.

Either way, this is what Facebook was made for…and yes, this is pretty much the end of competing services outside of servicing niche markets.


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