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Bing-based application for Facebook users

US: Facebook has added a new feature, Facebook Places. It allows users to share their location while on the move. The company is using Bing Maps to pinpoint everyone’s location on Facebook.com. Places will initially be available only in the US through Facebook’s iPhone app or by logging onto its smartphone site. The company plans to extend the feature to all its 500 million members as soon as it can.

“This is meaningful because you can stay connected with your friends around you,” said company founder Mark Zuckerberg. Detailed information about it is available at Facebook blog.

Foursquare, a location-based social networking website, has already introduced similar feature for its users. Other companies building on top of the Facebook platform alongside Foursquare include Gowalla, Booyah, Loopt and the business review site Yelp. Instead of viewing it as a threat to its future, Holger Leudorf, Foursquare’s Vice President of mobile and partnerships, sees Facebook’s entry into this arena as an opportunity. “This will certainly put the spotlight on the check-in industry even more but I don’t think it represents Facebook stealing our thunder,” he said.

“You see elements here that you see on Foursquare but this is more about validating that we are onto something and that this will be a much, much bigger thing going forward.”

While the location-based sector is still nascent, it is predicted to become a billion dollar market when it comes to targeting advertising or promotions at people based on their proximity to a business.

Media research firm Borrell Associates has estimated that such services could generate as much as USD 4.1 billion (GBP 2.6 billion) in annual ad sales by 2015. This is in part because of the explosion of people using Facebook and other services on their mobile phones. Facebook estimates that more than 150 million of its members access the site via a mobile.

Privacy concerns taken care
Stung by criticism over the way the company has handled users’ privacy in the past, Facebook has taken a different tack this time. The networking site has given users control over what and how much information they share on the service. Facebook said Places is about “broadcasting to your friends, not the whole world”.

Users can remove themselves if someone tags them. They can also disable the feature if they are not interested.

Source: BBC & Bing