But Facebook Places completely failed to take off, to the extent that just a year after its launch, Places was essentially deactivated. Facebook still retains some LBS functionality: mobile users can opt to attach their location to their status updates and check in at business locations. But business participation in Facebook's check-in program is minimal; a quick survey of Chicago check-in deals yielded just five hits.
Altimeter Group mobile analyst Chris Silva sees the pullback not as a failure of the Places tool, but rather a retreat on the part of Facebook from a faltering mobile strategy. In February, Facebook's own pre-IPO S-1 filing all but admitted the flaw, which Silva pointed out on his blog.
"Sounds like a problem -- the biggest-news IPO in Silicon Valley is essentially admitting it's concerned with its prospects for monetizing mobile users," Silva wrote.
Today, Silva is convinced that Facebook must and will turn itself back to the mobile environment. "Their next step is inherently mobile," Silva emphasizes.
For now, however, mobile is taking a back seat. Facebook's "focus is on the ads right now," explains Shon Christy, founder and president of Christy Creative, LLC, a midwestern social media marketing firm, "particularly ads that are part of Facebook's Reach Generator ad packaging program." The Reach Generator program, launched by Facebook at the end of February, enables participants to promote posts from their pages and pay via an ongoing payment plan, rather than per-click.
Still, Facebook can't be counted out completely out yet as an LBS player, for two reasons.
First, in late 2011, Facebook announced that it had hired pretty much all of the developers and engineers from Gowalla, an LBS-based social media platform that focused on social-network city guides using members' photos and descriptions. Facebook did one of its famous acqui-hires -- instead of buying the company outright, it picked up the talent but left the technology and the service alone. As a result, Gowalla ended up shuttering itself on March 12, 2012.