Is Facebook Local a worthy competitor to existing location-aware check-in apps?

Should competitors be afraid when a company of that magnitude gets in the ring?

Without much fanfare has Facebook re-launched on November 10th their moderately successful standalone Events app from “Events” to “Facebook Local” .

Powered by data from your millions of check-ins, the Silicon Valley behemoth understood one thing. If you are going out, it does not necessarily mean you are going to an event. So they expanded the “local” experience from events to include bars, restaurant, and attractions.

And this may be just bad news for apps like Yelp, Living Social, Foursquare, or Drop!in.

Geospatial search is the game-changer for “Facebook Local” as the power of millions of business pages, reviews, and the mighty “check-in” provide the social media company with a competitive advantage over it’s competitors if combined with event ticketing and group orders.

So the competitors should be afraid when a company of that magnitude gets in the ring. But is it “there” yet? One app reviewer wrote :

There is a great attempt to make events accessible here, but it desperately needs work. The groups and events on Facebook are the main reason I want access to it. […]

Within their main app, Facebook is offering nearby event discovery for years. But likely because of the overall feature density of the app, some people call it clutter, Yelp and the other competitors continued to thrive.

‘Local’ is divided into three sections. The first thing you will see is “drinks and restaurants”. Apparently this is where we spend most of our time. In addition, similar to drop!in, you will see a list of events happening nearby. However, the events might happen the day or week after not “happening now”. But, and that’s a cool feature, you cab see the events your friends are interested in. So you can stalk your BFF who is going to the “My Little Pony” movie.

The second section is the Yelp competitor. Here the above mentioned search power kicks into full gear. It totally looks like Yelp, yet surprisingly it lacks the depths of the Yelp database.

In the third and last tab, Facebook has included your event calendar.  And again, this is playing to Facebook’s strength.

Also read: magicpin uses location intelligence to deliver discovery, rewards for local experiences; raises US$7M

Facebook surely has an advantage from the event side of things since Facebook is the undisputed champ in terms event planning. So ticketing and communications are solved. However, that still does not explain why ‘Local’ needs to exist as a standalone app. Especially since it is part of the ecosystem it enjoys important social features from Facebook. I.e., you might not miss your best friends birthday party invitation.

So similar to Yelp and Foursquare, ‘Local’ can be useful to discover places nearby including your friends’ recommendations. However, unlike Tenqyu’s drop!in that aggregates over several event data vendors, ‘Local’ shows ‘only’ Facebook events. Of course one might argue this is only what you care about.

Facebook Local is a good start since it combines powerful social features with the urban environment (sorry ruralites).  It lacks the depths of Yelp’s and Drop!in’s database at this point compete, but these companies should be afraid.


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