Will Facebook check-in at the top?

Facebook’s decision to kill off its location-based Places feature and instead integrate check-ins into users’ statuses, wall posts and photos is dividing analysts. Since rolling out Places a year ago, the service has failed to live up to hype, experiencing lower-than-expected adoption among Facebook users and failing to sweep aside small rivals such as Foursquare and Gowalla. In fact Foursquare claims that Facebook’s entry into the market has actually helped boost its user numbers by raising awareness of location among internet users. Many believe this latest move could leave the door open for its competitors, allowing them to surge ahead with products that have location at their core.

Foursquare in particular is highlighted as a big potential winner. The firm, recently valued at USD600m, is upping its focus on revenues, looking to monetise its 10m members as it seeks to succeed in a space that has been tipped to explode for some time. A recent report by Pyramid Research forecasts that the global location-based services market will be worth USD10.3bn in 2015, with location seen as part of the triad that includes daily deals and mobile that will see huge growth in the coming years. Foursquare has already linked with a raft of daily deals sites to offer real-time, location-based deals to its users, and moves to entice merchants will only help the firm as it looks to boost user numbers and revenues.

However, Facebook is not abandoning location all together, with some analysts claiming that the latest move is part of a natural evolution in the location game. Facebook’s changes integrate location more widely across its social network, meaning users could begin to use more habitually when they update features such as their status. It also still offers Facebook opportunities to monetise location. Now, when users tag a location in their status, any relevant offers will appear in their news feed below their post. Some claim that this will help foster adoption of a service that until now has failed to deliver on its promise. And if Facebook can encourage even a tenth of its 250m mobile users globally to consider location-tagging as an integral part of their activity on the social network, it could rocket to the head of the table leaving its rivals to contemplate what might have been.

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