Facebook is getting into the so-called people discovery space already populated by apps like Tinder, Highlight and Social Radar, capitalizing on our smartphones as homing devices. The company said Thursday that it would roll out a new feature called Nearby Friends over the next few weeks.
“If you turn on Nearby Friends, you’ll occasionally be notified when friends are nearby, so you can get in touch with them and meet up,” Facebook product manager Andrea Vaccari said in a blog post. “For example, when you’re headed to the movies, Nearby Friends will let you know if friends are nearby so you can see the movie together or meet up afterward.”
Vaccari is the former chief executive of Glancee, a location-based people discovery app that Facebook bought in 2012. Glancee was founded in 2010 as an attempt to bring together the “physical and digital” worlds of smartphone users.
Part of the challenge for Nearby Friends will be for the feature to only deliver the most relevant notifications, and not overwhelm users with pings whenever family members walk into the house or someone they are already scheduled to meet walks into a building.
It relates to the challenge Facebook already faces with its current newsfeed: ensuring that users see the most relevant information about people they are interested in, rather than distant acquaintances in far-off places.
Social Radar, one new addition to the world of people-discovery apps, relies on friends actively choosing to check in to one of a handful of large platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google Plus and FourSquare. Anyone who publishes their location to any of those platforms show up as being within a 1 to 100 mile radius
According to the Wall Street Journal, Facebook considered letting the feature show the location of friends on a map, but decided it might be seen as a privacy infringement.
Facebook said the app would be available on both iOS and Android phones.