For those for whom Facebook pretty much is the internet, and sharing location with friends is more positive than negative, the social network's new Find Friends Nearby feature is sure to be an impromptu party hit.
TechCrunch got the early word on it, and Facebook engineer Ryan Patterson gave them the background.
I built Find Friends Nearby with another engineer for a hackathon project. While it was originally called ‘Friendshake’, we settled on ‘Find Friends Nearby’ for launch (the URL was a little bit of a homage to the previous iteration).
For me, the ideal use case for this product is the one where when you’re out with a group of people whom you’ve recently met and want to stay in contact with. Facebook search might be effective, or sharing your vanity addresses or business cards, but this tool provides a really easy way to exchange contact information with multiple people with minimal friction.
Find Friends Nearby has already propagated, and should be available on your iPhone, in Facebook, under Apps, Find Friends, Other Tools, Find Friends Nearby.
It's interesting to see Facebook rolling out new, quasi-experimental features like this as part of their web-based app platform. In other words, without requiring an iOS App Store app update. Given the latency in doing location-based friend detection anyway, it probably doesn't matter that it's really an embedded web app and lacks native performance -- you'll be waiting for data longer than you'll be waiting for the interface anyway.
How far Facebook can push their "app store" within an app remains to be seen, but so far it makes an already powerful app much more powerful and flexible. (Or an already intrusive and creepy app even more so, if that's how you view Facebook.)
If you're meeting up with a group of like-minded Facebookers sometime soon, and give Find Friends Nearby a try, let me know how it works for you (either in the comments, or via facebook.com/reneritchie).