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Facebook Axes Places: Who Will Miss It?

Facebook Places

The Huffington Post   First Posted: 08/24/11 12:40 PM ET Updated: 10/24/11 06:12 AM ET

Tucked near the end of Facebook's 1,200-word blog post detailing a slew of privacy changes was a short obituary for a Facebook feature unveiled with great fanfare last year: Facebook Places, a check-in service that allowed users to share their locations on Facebook and redeem coupons.

Facebook quietly admitted that it would be "phasing out" Places, which had been available only on cellphones, while at the same time expanding the ability to add locations to posts by allowing users to tag cities, venues and landmarks in everything from status updates to Wall posts using any device.

Places users will still be able to claim special offers at certain locations, though Facebook has tweaked the process slightly and now surfaces deals under status updates only after a user has checked in (Learn more about this on TechCrunch).

Though Facebook boasts over 750 million users, Places never quite seemed to find its footing and there were reports that two months after the feature launched, just 30 million users, or 6 percent of all Facebook users at the time, had ever tried Places.

So who will miss Facebook's short-lived check-in service?

Certainly not location-based service Foursquare, the startup that Facebook seemed intent to squash with Places, which offered a slew of Foursquare-like features.

"This looks like a tacit admission that Foursquare is winning the check-in battle," wrote Business Insider, while Betabeat joked the earthquake that rocked the East coast Tuesday was actually caused by "tectonic reverberations of defeat, as Facebook quietly phased out the Places feature of its mobile app which everyone was screaming for months would kill Foursquare."

TechCrunch's MG Siegler counters that Facebook's shift may signal the social networking site is "doubling-down" on location and attempting to place it front and center on every Facebook post, even as it moves away from check-ins. Its approach, moving forward, will be different from Foursquare's, but its determination to tap into location just as fierce. After all, location information offers one more salient piece of data that can be used to sell more--and more targeted--ads. "[N]ow that location is being emphasized on every Facebook action (though it can easily be turned off) — and not just on mobile — a lot of people are going to use it. Location as a layer of context is about to get a big upgrade," wrote Siegler.

Teen users may the ones who miss Places most, as experts say this demographic was more likely to use Facebook's check-in service than Foursquare.

According to a study by research firm Dubit released in May, UK teenagers have little interest in checking in--nearly half had never heard of services like Foursquare and Facebook Places--yet Facebook Places had a leg up among users in this demographic: 30 percent of teens said they used Places, while 5 percent said they used Foursquare.

Lori Getz, founder of Cyber Education Consultants and an Internet safety expert, observed that Places appeared to have gained more traction among teens, though its popularity was still limited.

"For the most part, I saw teens using Facebook Places more than adults," Getz told The Huffington Post. "Places initially took off more than Foursquare, but as teens learned more about these GPS-locating services, I saw more teens moving to Foursquare."

Will you miss Places? Check out what other users are saying and let us know below, or tweet your thoughts to @HuffPostTech using the hashtag #RIPPlaces.

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