It lets friends see approximately how far away you are from them, and you can share your exact, on-going location with them for a limited time. Below is a deep analysis of how Nearby Friends works, how it was built, its privacy implications, how it impacts the competitive landscape, and its long-term opportunities for Facebook.
Nearby Friends was built by the Glancee location sharing app team led by Andrea Vaccari that Facebook acquired in It could also challenge the friend-gathering features of Highlight, Banjo, Sonar, Connect, and more startups. While you can select the specific list or group of friends you want to share your proximity with, many people may simply keep this visible to all their friends — a very wide net.
From there you can opt in to turning Nearby Friends on, and select if you want to share your proximity with all your friends, or a specific friend list or group. Otherwise you could send someone a Facebook message asking for them to send you their location. Anyone who shares their exact coordinates with you will show up on a map view.
The product only works if lots of people are using it, and the focus on proximity makes it private enough that they might. To get your location, Facebook will frequently pull your GPS coordinates. This is less than the 0. If you have Nearby Friends turned on, Facebook will also occasionally send you notifications that a friend who has opted in is close.
It intelligently looks at where that person goes frequently so as not to ping you everytime they get to work if you live a block away, and it reads their location and accelerometer to make sure they are just driving by but are actually stopped and potentially available to hang out. Some frequent use cases for Nearby Friends include: You could turn on persistent exact location sharing with your family for security when you travel. When you fly into an airport, you could see if friends are there too that you could split a ride with.
Facebook has recently been highlighting its new focus on standalone apps with its new Creative Labs initiative and the launch of Paper. Imagine if the ads you saw in your News Feed were for restaurants or shops a block away. Those would surely be more relevant to users and more effective for businesses.
For being a feature that constantly shares your proximity to friends or your exact location, Facebook tried to make it respect our privacy. You can turn it off any time with a few taps. You can set who sees your proximity, they have to be sharing their proximity with you to see yours, you have to explicitly share exact location, and unless you set it to share indefinitely, your exact location will disappear within a day.
The way the product is built is safe by default. Location is not precise by default. That will includes bosses, co-workers, family memebers, and random people they met once but accepted a friend request from. People will forget to turn it off. Vaccari says there are plenty of niche apps that can do this.
Nearby Friends will be a test of our own ability to protect ourselves. Facebook has equipped us with all the necessary privacy options and set respectful defaults. Wielded skillfully, Nearby Friends could unlock real-world interactions in the way Foursquare and all the other check-in products were supposed to. More than money, power, or success, I truly believe spending time with people you love is the best route to happiness. We have plenty of tools for sharing and consuming memories.
Finally Facebook has built a feature that will help us create them.