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Find Friends Nearby: Facebook Launches New Location-Based App (UPDATE)

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Facebook is testing a feature called Find Friends Nearby, a mobile app that allows users to view friends and other Facebook users in nearby locations.

[UPDATE: Facebook has apparently pulled the mobile site for this feature.]

The app's purpose is to find new connections in a faster way than by typing in someone's name in the search bar and flipping through a long list. For example, if you met "John Smith" at a work event and searched for his name in the Facebook app, pages of results would appear. But if you were to use the Find Friends Nearby app, only a list of people in a close proximity would be listed; the right John Smith becomes much easier to find. It appears that a user's exact whereabouts are not revealed by Find Friends Nearby URL, since there is no map or address listed.

After first logging in on Facebook, users may then launch the app by clicking on this link. Friends and strangers who are accessing Find Friends Nearby will appear in a list, with an "Add Friend" button beside their name. This new feature is available on iOS and Android platforms, as well as on the mobile web, according to CNET.

(Note: The Find Friends Nearby webpage appeared to be down after midday on Monday.)

The launch of this new feature comes nearly two months after Facebook's purchase of location-based app Glancee.

TechCrunch reported the Facebook engineer behind this product, Ryan Patterson, originally conceived of this app as part of a hackathon project. At the time, the app was called "Friendshake." The name then changed to Find Friends Nearby, though the phrase 'friendshake' can still currently be found in the app's mobile web URL.

"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," Patterson explained to TechCrunch.

The app has kicked up a controversy with its debut. The Huffington Post on Monday received a statement from Charles Sankowich, CEO of friend-locating app Friendthem. Alleging that Facebook ripped off his product to create a Facebook-branded friend finder, Charles Sankowich said the following:

I was amazed on Sunday to read that Facebook is blatantly stealing our idea with what they are calling, “Find Friends Nearby.” Facebook engineer Ryan Patterson claims the feature was born at a hackathon as "Friendshake," but we believe they simply stole trademarked materials of Friendthem.com.

More than two years ago we trademarked “Friendthem” and have had tremendous success and exposure with this concept.

Sankowich believes that Find Friends Nearby even stole the language of his app. He and his team are consulting attorneys with the expectation to begin a lawsuit in the near future.

A Facebook rep did not immediately respond to a request for comment. However, CNET did obtain a statement from a spokesperson for the social network:
"We are constantly testing new features but have nothing more to share at this time."

Besides the friend-locating battle of the apps, other worries cross our minds with this new Facebook feature. Could this product be invasive, spurring on an influx of unwanted Facebook friend requests when you're out at a bar or in a heavily populated location?

What do you think about Find Friends Nearby? Is this a feature you would use? Let you know in the comments section below or tweet us at @HuffPostTech.

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