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Big Deal: Facebook Emerges As Major Player In Mobile And Location-Based Services

The world of location-based services changed dramatically today. And the changes that Facebook announced place the company firmly in the center of that very dynamic universe and ecosystem.

Toward the end of becoming a “platform” for mobile, Facebook made several significant announcements aimed at developers. There were also announcements aimed at consumers and marketers, “Deals” being the big one.

As context for all of this the company said it has an active mobile user base of 200 million people (out of more than 500 million total users). It doesn’t break out US vs. non-US numbers — though I’d bet the majority are in North America. If even half of those users are in the US it would make Facebook as large as Verizon. The difference is that Facebook’s members are much more engaged.

Here’s a quick list of most of the things being announced:

Single Sign-On: This enables users already signed into Facebook on smartphones to sign in to other sites with a single click — without entering any new password information or even their Facebook credentials. For developers and users this removes “friction” from the mobile experience where a sign in is required to access the app’s content or functionality. Facebook says users have total control over the functionality and there are no new privacy implications. Users will simply be prompted to push a “Login with Facebook” button.

Facebook Places for iPhone: The iPhone app is being updated with some new features and includes Facebook Deals.

Groups for Mobile: Both on the iPhone and Android apps, Facebook now allows users to access the recently launched Facebook Groups.

Android App Upgraded: Facebook’s Android app has been upgraded in several ways and now includes Places. However it doesn’t include Deals yet. Deals will be accessible to Android users from the touch.facebook.com site.

Facebook Places API: Facebook is making its local data and activity stream available to third party publishers and developers. (This is worthy of a separate post.) This is competitive with the Google Places API.

Facebook Deals: This is arguably the major announcement of the day, with far reaching implications for both users and businesses large and small.

First and foremost Deals provides a reason for “regular people” to use Facebook Places, to get access to deals or rewards as a by-product of checking in. It also provides a way for large and small marketers to reach Facebook’s massive mobile audience on the go. Emily White, Facebook’s Sr. Director of Local, told me that merchants were observing people check in on their Places pages and wanted a way to interact with those Facebook users.

How Deals Works

Facebook is launching deals with an inaugural set of marketers and institutions. The nature of the deals vary (there are four types, including charitable contributions) but many of them are meaty such as the first one being offered by the Gap: “Be one of the first 10,000 people to check in at Gap on November 5 receive a free pair of jeans.”

Here’s the full list of the Facebook Deal launch partners:

The image is a bit difficult to make out but the following picture is the merchant sign up screen for Facebook Deals. It’s literally one page with a preview of how the offer/coupon will look to consumers.

It thus appears very simple to create an offer for Facebook Deals. The simplicity of this page will be significant for the millions of small businesses that will undoubtedly be interested getting access to this offering. And it will be opened up to small businesses in the near future — initially 20,000 and then the broader audience.

Users can access deals by simply looking at the map or list of nearby businesses. Here’s how it looks on the iPhone:

Businesses with deals will be “tagged” with yellow coupon markers (image on the far left). Users then pull up the Place Page and “get the deal” by clicking on a button. At the point of sale the user shows the coupon on the screen to the relevant person at checkout (though there could be some friction there).

Deals will be a big hit with both consumers and marketers, whether large or small. Coupons is one of the most effective and popular forms of mobile advertising and Facebook’s reach will make it a huge player in this segment.

It will take a little while to digest all the implications of these announcements as well as to see their impact on the market and the mobile ecosystem as a whole. But I’m pretty confident that they’ll be significant and even lasting.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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