But, though I feel handicapped by not being able to play with it this morning, here's what excites me about Facebook Places: it will finally let us all get a handle on how important -- or maybe even unimportant -- geo-location is. While many of the rest of you natter on and on about the features it has, whether people actually use Facebook Places, and how they use it, is all that will really matter in the end.
As readers of this column know, I am not entirely on board with geo-location. Part of it is that I don't go much of anywhere, but part of it is there are a lot of people who find checking in to be too much information. At least, up until this point. Ask yourself, social media intelligentsia, if you were lawyers instead of digital media specialists, would you even know what Foursquare is? And if you did, how much time would you really spend playing around with it? Is telling lot of people where you are a normal human behavior that has just been waiting for technology to enable it? Or isn't it?
One thing is for sure: with Facebook in the game, the entire game changes. It's like going from playing checkers to playing Chinese checkers; it takes a fairly limited game and blows it out into one with entirely new dimensions - reaching all the way to a place where, theoretically, 500 million people could start checking in, or at least be exposed to that behavior. (By comparison, Foursquare is at about two million-plus users right now.)
Though I don't use Foursquare much, Facebook Places actually piques my interest. Why? Because it will let me, as a social media columnist, get in on the next great social experiment of figuring out whether this will become a real phenomenon. I don't really learn much about checking in as a new human behavior when it's occurring within my Twitter posse. Most of you are somehow involved in social media and marketing; therefore, check-ins are an accepted part of our communal feedback loop.
But if I start doing this within Facebook, I start exposing the activity to friends from college and high school, and the mothers I share carpooling duty with. There's very little overlap between those people and most of you. I know what some of you are saying -- it's long been possible to post check-ins from dedicated geo-location services to other social networks with more users. Some exposure has already been happening. But once this starts being a Facebook-centric activity, it becomes easier for those exposed to the behavior to try it. That fact is game-changing.
Now that Facebook Places exists, geo-location either goes viral. Or it doesn't. Facebook, the largest focus group the world has ever known, will let us know the answer.