Facebook is officially introducing a feature it has toyed with in simpler form in the past, as the social network announced the launch of Nearby Friends in a Newsroom post, saying that it will be available to U.S. Android and iPhone users “in the coming weeks.”
Users of the social network’s flagship apps for Android devices and iPhones can choose to activate the Nearby Friends feature, after which they will be notified when friends who have also activated the feature share the information that they are located nearby. Friends can only see information of this type if it is shared with them, and the Nearby Friends feature can be deactivated at any time.
Product Manager Andrea Vaccari shared more details in the Newsroom post:
If you turn on Nearby Friends, you’ll occasionally be notified when friends are nearby, so you can get in touch with them and meet up. For example, when you’re headed to the movies, Nearby Friends will let you know if friends are nearby so you can see the movie together or meet up afterward.
Nearby Friends is an optional feature. You can choose who can see if you’re nearby (for example: your friends, close friends, or a specific friends list), and you can turn it on and off at any time.
Sharing your location with Nearby Friends goes two ways — you and your friends both have to turn on Nearby Friends and choose to share with each other to see when you’re nearby. Your friends will only be able to see that you’re nearby if you share this info with them and vice versa.
If you turn on Nearby Friends, you can also choose to share a precise location with the particular friends you choose for a set period of time, such as the next hour. When you share your precise location, the friend you choose will see exactly where you are on a map, which helps you find each other. Then you can meet up and spend time together.
When Nearby Friends is on, you can see when your friends are traveling if they’re also using this feature and sharing with you. You’ll be able to see the city or neighborhood they are in, including on their profile. When you see a friend visiting a place you’ve been, it’s the perfect opportunity to send a recommendation for a great restaurant. You can also make last-minute plans to meet up with a friend who happens to be in the same place you’re headed to.
In June 2012, Facebook briefly experimented with a Find Friends Nearby feature, which allowed Facebook users to meet new people in the area, or to more easily connect with people they already met.
I built Find Friends Nearby with another engineer for a hackathon project. While it was originally called Friendshake, we settled on Find Friends Nearby for launch (the URL was a little bit of homage to the previous iteration).
For me, the ideal use case for this product is the one where when you’re out with a group of people whom you’ve recently met and want to stay in contact with. Facebook search might be effective, or sharing your vanity addresses or business cards, but this tool provides a really easy way to exchange contact information with multiple people with minimal friction.
However, the social network pulled the Find Friends Nearby feature within days of its emergence.
Facebook’s application for the BlackBerry 10, released in March 2013, also included a feature called Friends Nearby, which was described as follows:
Now, Facebook for BlackBerry 10 allows you to discover if your Facebook friends are nearby. You’ll be able to see when they’ve checked in on Facebook to a location that’s close to where you are.
Nearby Friends is obviously much more comprehensive than the Friends Nearby feature in the BlackBerry app.
Readers: Will you try out Nearby Friends on your Android or iPhone apps?