Facebook Places and Google Places: What's in a Name?

Last night, Facebook sprang its new Facebook Places product on the world.  At its core, it’s a lot like Foursquare.  It allows you to “check in” at a location using the GPS on your mobile device.  The major difference is that while using Places, you’re not competing to become “mayor” of anything, as you are on Foursquare.  With Places, you’re simply sharing your physical location with Facebook friends.

Google has its own location product.  Interestingly, it’s called  Google Places.

Despite using the same names, Facebook and Google Places are completely different products.

Facebook Places is simply adding another way you can tell people what you’re up to, by using geolocation.

Google Places is a re-branding of Google’s Local Business Center.  It launched back in April, and included a ton of new features.  Its basic goal is to get local businesses to “claim” their Google Place page on the web, fill it up with information, use it to serve things like coupons, and then (hopefully) buy advertising with Google to direct people to it.  Geolocation is a feature, but it’s not even closely related to how Facebook is using it.

For Facebook, this new product is a great idea.  While squashing competitors Foursquare and Gowalla (I know those two companies are “partners” in Facebook Places, but that’s really only because they don’t have much choice but go along) a logical function is also being added to Facebook.  You can already tell your Facebook friends what you’re doing.  With Places, you can show them where you’re doing it.

Google Places is also a great idea.  It’s an attempt to expand its local search offerings.  Search and other Internet services are what Google does best.  There is no social aspect to Google Places, which is a good idea given Google’s lack of success in social media offerings.

We’ve determined that these two services are only slightly related … so, why do they have such similar names?  I can’t imagine.  Maybe all of the words that don’t mean anything (see also: Twitter, Gowalla, Foursquare, Vimeo) are already  taken?

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