Facebook to introduce optional “Nearby Friends” feature

Nigel Gambanga Avatar
"Nearby Friends" feature. Image courtesy of The Facebook Newsroom
“Nearby Friends” feature. Image courtesy of The Facebook Newsroom

Social network giant Facebook continues to add services and improvements to its services. Recently it announced on its blog the roll out of a new feature called Nearby Friends.
This new optional feature works by identifying friends that are nearby or on the move.

Through notifications received on your mobile device, you will be told of friends that are in close proximity to you. According to Facebook this new optional feature is easy to switch on or off at any given time. It will be rolled out in the United States for now and will be available for Android and iPhone.

The functionality of the application is two way which would require your friends to have their own Nearby Friends feature activated in order for you to find them. Through an additional feature you will be able to share your exact location for a specific period with particular friends of your choice.

Through this new feature you can also tell when your friends are traveling just as long as they are using the feature and are sharing this with you. Information that includes the city or neighborhood a friend is in will also be available.

With all its bells and whistles the biggest thrust behind this new feature appears to be creating offline connections for online friends. The ability to identify “friends” that you can meet up with as well as sharing locations with part of your friends list makes it so much easier to meet up at a common hangout or better yet “find” which of your friends are already there.

Facebook has managed to create yet another way to harvest data about users’ genuine interests and those of their true “Facebook friends.” Recommending a restaurant to a friend you see visiting a place you have been to or meeting up for movies helps create clearer profiles that Facebook can use for its targeted advertising and media efforts.

It also looks like in the process they have also started flirting (excuse the pun) with the dating/social discovery app segment. This new feature’s core functions of identifying which friends are close plus the added function of “beaming” your location to your “select friends” resembles the service model of apps like Tinder and Blendr.

Apps like the award winning Tinder actually require users to have a Facebook account so that users with similar interests are matched. It would seem Facebook decided to directly offer a service they have facilitated for other apps. It won’t be surprising if this feature gains traction as a casual date tool. It is after all just a swipe away from what you have to sign up for with other apps.

The greatest comfort is that you won’t be meeting up with a “complete stranger” but someone you know on Facebook, right? You are after all encouraged to accept friend requests from people you know. Facebook seems to be saying, “Who needs company (or other apps) when you’ve got “Facebook friends” like these?”