Facebook is introducing a big new feature across mobile that will make it even easier to keep tabs on friends. As if the social network wasn’t already a good enough stalking platform. The new opt-in feature, dubbed Nearby Friends, allow users to see the exact location of nearby friends; your location will be displayed in real-time as long as you’re in range. The point of the feature is to encourage humans to actually engage with friends in the flesh. But it’s also designed to get people to spend more time using Facebook’s mobile app.
When the new features hits iOS and Android, Nearby Friends will help you discover which friends are nearby, even pinging you with notifications when they’re around. Hopefully you see a friend nearby who said they were out of town. Awkward. Because the feature is optional, it’s also very customizable, allowing users to choose who can see you nearby, including friends, close friends, or specific friends. So, for example, I can leave Roy Choi off my friends list, because I don’t want him suddenly crashing my night out. The feature can be turned off and on at any time.
You’ll only be able to see nearby friends if the feature is turned on by both parties. If I have it turned on and a nearby friend doesn’t, there’s no way for me to know they’re close by. If you do opt-in, you can choose to share a precise location with a friend, where your picture will then show up on a map. For all the unpleasant possibilities Nearby Friends might uncover, it could also really come in handy, too. I can imagine it being especially great, say, if you’re at a concert and a group of friends you didn’t know were going pops up. Now you can enjoy the show together.
This feature will almost certainly raise privacy concerns, but Facebook has seemingly covered its bases by making it opt-in, and also giving users complete control over who sees your location. If you can handle seeing friends face-to-face rather than through the portal of a 5-inch screen, then maybe Nearby Friends can be convenient and fun. Look out for the feature to hit in the coming weeks.