According to Bloomberg, the social network is in the process of developing a smartphone application that will track the location of users. Supposedly scheduled for release by mid-March, it will help users find nearby friends — basically competing against Apple’s Find My Friends service, along with others, including Highlight, Banjo, and perhaps even Foursquare.
But to date, none of the apps has gained mass adoption. In part, that’s because they suffer from network effects — not enough people have joined to make them truly useful, which makes it harder for them to attract more users. Facebook, with more than 1 billion users in its network, could have the best chance yet to make an app like this work.
“A lot of what we had to do last year was simply to improve our mobile development process,” Zuckerberg said. “The next thing we’re going to do is get really good at building new mobile-first experiences.”
If it’s adopted broadly, though, the app could be a data goldmine. As Bloomberg notes, Facebook could use data gleaned from the app to sell ads based not just on users’ current locations but also on their daily routines. That alone makes it an idea worth pursuing — but alongside Facebook’s mobile app, not inside it. At least for now.