Yesterday Facebook quietly introduced a new feature it first called Friendshake (which still pops up in your browser when searching for the app) that’s now been labeled Find Friends Nearby. In a nutshell, opening the Find Friends Nearby app shows you everyone around you who is also looking at the Find Friends Nearby app.
The app, originally spotted by TechCrunch, arrives in the aftermath of a Facebook acquisition spree that included ambient social app Glancee. The deal was little more than an acquihire, in which Facebook simultaneously grabbed the Glancee team and the app itself boarded up its business. The road to social-local features has been a rocky one for Facebook, and it was inevitable that, post-Glancee grab, the social network would take another stab at connecting users based on location – and now we’re looking at it.
Strangely, while Find Friends Nearby hasn’t been officially launched, Facebook wants word of the new app to start spreading organically. And that means, for the time being, you’re likely to be looking at an empty Find Friends Nearby feed.
You might question why Facebook needs an app to further connect people – being found and finding other users on Facebook is relatively easy. But the rash of SoLoMo apps that have recently launched are probably part of this recent push: apps like Banjo, Sonar, and Highlight dominated SXSW this year, and there’s a lot of interest in fostering this technology.
At the same time, there’s a lot of skepticism. Sure, these apps were all the rage at Austin this spring – but there were also harshly critiqued. Everyone used them, but hardly everyone loved them. The jury is still out on whether or not we want to connect this way or if it’s even effective.
It’s supposed to make creating connections more seamless, easier, and intuitive. An example social-local evangelists love to use is that you’re at a conference or event, where you’ve met a handful of people. Instead of remember each of their names to find them later and keep as connections, you can open up one of these apps and instantly have access to their information and, more often than not, Facebook page (as this is the platform many outside apps choose to integrate for user accounts). The connection is seamlessly, immediately made – without any awkward “what was your name again so I can friend you on Facebook?” interactions to be had.
If the app catches on, it could be bad news for Highlight, arguably the most popular SoLoMo app that only leverages Facebook. The app enjoyed some early success and has a gorgeous interface, but has been rather quiet since SXSW. Banjo and Sonar also tie in Foursquare, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn, so it’s a bit bulkier but obviously has content you won’t find solely on Facebook or a Facebook-only app.
At the moment, you can access the feature via the mobile Facebook page (m.facebook.com/ffn) or the Facebook app itself. It’s rather buried, but hit up Apps, Find Friends, Other Tools, and then you’ll see the Find Friends Nearby app.
And it’s gone. Facebook issued a statement to ABC, saying:
“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 – we’ll communicate to everyone when there is something to say.”
Do you think the Friendthem lawsuit threat had anything to do with this?