Photo: Courtesy of Facebook.
Facebook has gone and done a curious thing. The social network has begun rolling out its new, optional Nearby Friends feature for Android and iOS apps, which does exactly what it sounds like.
Now, when your friends are in the area, you'll get a notification. The feature, which will be hidden under the More tab of the Facebook app, is opt-in, so you don't need to worry about accidentally revealing your coordinates. Your friends will need to opt-in, too.
It's hardly the first service of its kind. "People discovery" tools were the hot new thing a couple years back, but they never quite took off like their creators had hoped. Google shut down its Latitude feature last summer; and Apple's Find My Friends app, while still available, no longer comes preinstalled on new iPhones.
While Nearby Friends is slightly less stalker-y than those earlier iterations — it only shows when friends are in the vicinity, but not their exact locations — it still begs the question: Who will use this? As Ellis Hamburger at The Verge notes, "Programmatically creating serendipitous encounters might make these magical moments feel less magical."
It feels especially odd that Facebook would try this now, burdening its interface with yet another add-on as it plans to unbundle such features into standalone apps in the future. It'll be interesting to see how this capability is folded into that strategy. As for us, we're still waiting for the Leave Me Alone setting to roll out. (The Verge)