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Facebook kills 'Places' check-in feature

Facebook

Buh-bye, Places.

Facebook is ending its anemic mobile "Places" check-in feature a year after it was introduced.

"Places" never seemed to find a place in mobile users' lives. The social network started the program largely to help fend off the growing influence of location-based sharing sites like Foursquare and Gowalla.

What will take "Places" place? Facebook is developing a more general location-tagging feature, something that it mentioned earlier this week when it announced a series of changes to help improve user privacy.

Before, "You could only 'check in' to locations using the Places feature on a smart phone," wrote Chris Cox on the Facebook Blog. "As a part of this, we are phasing out the mobile-only Places feature. Settings associated with it are also being phased out or removed."

But now, "you can add location to anything," he wrote. "Lots of people use Facebook to talk about where they are, have been or want to go. Now you can add location from anywhere, regardless of what device you are using, or whether it is a status update, photo or Wall post. Of course, you can always choose not to add location at all."

You can learn more about how Facebook's location features work and and which settings are affected by checking out this Facebook page.

A cautionary warning, though, as writer Emil Protalinski said on ZDNet:

The new location button in the sharing tool is a tricky one because Facebook is trying to get you to use it as much as possible while still abiding by privacy rules. As a result, it’s off by default, so you have to make a point to turn it on. If you do turn it on, it will keep adding your general location (like the city you live in) to all of your posts. As a result, you’ll have to remember to click the x to remove your location before you share every new post. Otherwise, you’ll have to turn the feature off.

As proof of how lame and little-used "Places" was, Ad Age recently shared a list of the top places for check-ins:

1.   Chicago O'Hare International Airport
2.   San Francisco International Airport
3.   Disneyland
4.   Hartsfield International Airport (Atlanta)
5.   Times Square NYC
6.   Denver International Airport
7.   Facebook HQ, Palo Alto, Calif.
8.   Seattle-Tacoma International Airport
9.   Philadelphia International Airport
10. Boston Logan International Airport

Notice anything? Yes, that's right: Facebook's headquarters was No. 7 on the list. That speaks volumes: While Facebook has more than 2,000 employees, the social networking site has an estimated 750 million users.

Update, 1:40 p.m. PT: A Facebook spokesperson had this to say about the change: "We've learned a lot since launching Places. The core insight is that most people on Facebook think about location as part of their everyday experience. People tell their friends what they are doing, who they are with, and where they are. For this reason, we've revisited Facebook Places so that people begin to tell us where they are along with what they are doing and who they're with. Because of this, we are beginning to phase out the mobile-only Places feature.

"However, people will continue to be able to tell their friends where they are by tagging Places. Now a 'Place' becomes another descriptor to add to any post. It can be a place you are, have been, want to go, or just want to talk about. It was already possible to talk about location in this way on Facebook by tagging Place Pages from the Web. We've expanded this functionality."

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