Hello, what have we here? It seems the social network giant has sneakily launched a location-based mobile app that lets you find out which of your friends are close by. According to Tech Crunch, the app also allows users to see who else is using the app in the area, even if they’re not ‘friends’, and easily send them a friend request.
Is it just me, or does this all sound suspiciously similar to what SXSW darling Highlight does?
The app is called “Friends Nearby” and is available from some regions under its previous name (“Friendshake”) via the mobile web and the app menus in Facebook’s iOS and Android apps. It was reportedly a hackathon project, although some reports suggest the app could have been the work of one of Facebook’s more recent aquisitions, ambient social location startup Glancee. Attempts to access the app on a variety of platforms have resulted in a smattering of various server errors, which hints that this may be less than an official, worldwide launch.
It’s an interesting (if not unexpected after the Glancee aquisition) move for the big blue social network, and already has some developers claiming that Facebook stole their idea for the app.
Of course, Facebook already has location-based functionality in Facebook Places, but Friends Nearby is different. It’s not about checking in somewhere and tagging your friends; it offers more opportunities for users to add new Facebook friends on the go. But if you’re not too fond of random friend requests, I suggest you don’t log into the app in a crowded area.
It seems Facebook have pulled the plug on the app. Wired reports that a Facebook spokesperson basically confirmed our suspicions about the mismatched URLS and error messages, saying:
“This wasn’t a formal release — this was just 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, but we’ll communicate to everyone when there is something to say.”