Facebook may have dropped traditional check-ins but does this mean other location based services should celebrate? What message does this send to the rest of the social web?
Facebook have announced that they are abandoning their "Places" functionality and the traditional check-in so some are arguing that the likes of Foursquare and Gowalla should now be jumping for joy as their main competition has left the arena.
Facebook hasn't dropped location, Places isn't dead; it has grown up and evolved and I believe that location based services should be more worried than ever.
This move sends a massive signal to the competition: if Facebook can't make traditional check-ins work with a potential catchment of over 750 million users (reports indicate that only 6% of Facebook accounts used Places) then it's likely no-one can. The reality, however, is that Facebook has realised something the others haven't: check-ins on their own are of limited use.
For me, check-ins in isolation are too limited - we need context. A check-in is okay as far as it goes but we merely leave a paper trail showing where we have been. There have been countless times I have wanted to check-in somewhere and post an image with to show what I'm doing but have not been able to; usually this has left me not even bothering to check-in at all. Facebook has just changed that.
I have called before for multi-purpose posts on Google+ where we could add a URL and a photo, multiple URLs, in fact any combination of items - a check-in plus a URL or a photo (why not both) would really help to establish the context we need for location based posts/check-ins.
Facebook's move to switch from a check-in based system to having location available on every item you post provides more value for that item and is the first step to true multi-purpose posts. We will not just be sharing where we are but we will be also be sharing why we are there, what we are doing and, potentially, other supplemental information which others may find of use.
The next level
So, sorry to all those folks who think Facebook has abandoned check-ins, you couldn't be more wrong. Facebook has taken them to the next level; what they now do with them. however, remains to be seen.
The Google+ application on Android also allows for location to be attached to any post which can also include images (either taken straight from the camera or from your gallery) and text so the facebook move may have been partially influenced by this. Despite improvements to the app which include the ability to reshare we still cannot share links correctly but both Google and Facebook have their feet placed firmly on the road to posts providing full utility and value.