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Facebook updates ‘Nearby’ feature with heavier social integration

Facebook is preparing to launch an update for its iOS and Android mobile apps that ties it closer to location-based social apps such as Foursquare or Yelp.

The “Nearby” function, which was scheduled to be updated sometime on Monday, makes it even easier for users to discover places that their friends like or have been to. This feature can be accessed by tapping the top left icon or by sliding your screen to the right to access the sidebar menu. A few tabs down in the menu is the “Nearby” option, which currently shows which places your friends have checked in to.

The updated feature, however, adds new capabilities such as search by category, Facebook said in a statement on Monday.

“If you’re looking for a place to eat, choose a category like Restaurants to see what’s nearby,” the company wrote.  “When you find a place that looks interesting, tap to see info like friends who who’ve been there and business hours.”

Similar to Yelp, Facebook patrons can also write reviews and rate establishments based on their experience. These reviews will come up in search results, and Facebook has also bumped up the social features into its “Nearby” option.

“You’re suggestions become more personalized the more you and your friends rate, recommend, and check into places,” the website said in its announcement.

The app’s interface has also significantly changed. Rather than listing locations or businesses that you’ve already checked in at, the app pulls up a compilation of places that it thinks you would be interested in. Just like Facebook decides to rank news items in your main feed based on a variety of factors, it does the so with its “Nearby” recommendations engine.  This means that Facebook will make suggestions based on friends who have “Liked” a particular spot or have given it a star rating.

Facebook was sure to acknowledge that since these features are new, there is likely to be room for improvement. The app’s performance will develop as more people use it over time, Facebook said.

“Results will get better the more people use Nearby, and we’ll continue to improve it based on feedback,” the social media platform said. “We also plan to add places info from third party services in the near future.”

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