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After a while from posting, I could not but comment on the recent announcement of Facebook launching Places on their acquisition of start-up “Hot Potato”.

Having tried the FourSquare service a few weeks ago and finding that some bloke two villages away was “Mayor” of our local cafe, and cycling shop, I gave up.  It might work in urban areas – but in the country the idea seemed daft.  To me, anyway.  The blogs are all spinning with questions about FourSquare’s survival.

Yet now we have Facebook Places, it is pretty clear that to be successful, you will have to put your app on this new platform to get the reach that Facebook offers.  For me this is a problem solved.

“You can immediately tell people about that favorite spot with Facebook Places,” said Places product manager Michael Eyal Sharon.

“You can share where you are and the friends you’re with in real time from your mobile device.”

Facebook members can “check-in” at restaurants, bars, or other social venues and let their friends at the social network instantly know where they are and with whom.

A Places application for iPhone handsets was released, and social network members with smartphones with Web browser software that supports geo-location and HTML5 could use Places at the mobile website touch.facebook.com.

I expect that now things will develop rapidly.  With the popularity of Farmville (more users than Twitter) and the possibilities of bringing places into games, the opportunities of blending local marketing schemes and even local currencies linked to your mobile phone all becomes possible.

However, my concern is that most of the innovation and the platforms that own the new location-based social media gaming platforms all appear to be in the US.  Europe had its chance with the mobile industry – but this new applications-centric world is beyond their corporate ken.  Which means that the UK and Europe may well slip behind in exploiting the new business models and job creation that is so vitally needed to get out of the recession.

That said, the UK still has a vibrant games creation industry and there will be opportunities to develop on top of Facebook’s Places to reach a global marketplace.  So not everything is gloomy.

How neat it would be if we could keep the currency (and value) of the internet gaming industry WITHIN the actual community that the games players are playing in.  Otherwise this new development will simply continue the erosion of communities of place to the useful but often abstract clouds-in-the-sky of communities of interest.

Excerpts in italics from:  “Facebook grabs Hot Potato mobile check-in startup” by Glenn Chapman (AFP)

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