June 25, 2012, 3:55 PM — Facebook is testing a mobile-only feature, called Find Friends Nearby, that allows users to connect with new social contacts based on who is nearby and using a browser.
The feature allows Facebook users to find and "friend" others nearby who also have the website open. It is reportedly available for some users in the Apps section of the main mobile menu and through a browser at fb.com/ffn. The IDG News Service was not able to immediately access the feature.
If two people meet at an event and want to share contact information, using Find Friends Nearby is designed to eliminate the need for them to type in each other's names and weed through a list of possible results, which can be long for those with common names.
Facebook downplayed the feature when asked for comment.
"This wasn't a formal release -- this was something that a few engineers were testing. With all tests, some get released as full products, others don't. Nothing more to say on this for now," a Facebook spokeswoman said in an email.
Still, the location-based feature marks a foray into the new territory of social discovery, or finding new friends, for the social network, which acquired the social discovery app Glancee in May.
"This is Facebook capitalizing on the popularity of applications like Sonar, Highlight and others that provide a similar social discovery service to bring some value from location based services," Chris Silva, an analyst with Altimeter Group, said in an email.
But the move didn't immediately trigger concern among industry players that Facebook would crush existing apps.
"Bringing more attention to location-based services and technology is a great thing," Damien Patton, the CEO of Banjo, said in an email. But he suggested Facebook had more work to do.
"Just like with mobile, Facebook will see location needing to become a core competency of their business," Patton said.
Gartner analyst Annette Zimmermann also said that Find Friends Nearby wouldn't be enough to establish Facebook as a player in social discovery.