Facebook Places: Memories for places

Facebook has confirmed that it will be launching Facebook Places, bringing the idea of check-ins mainstream.

The new service, called Facebook Places, will work with the company's Touch interface as well as a new iPhone app expected to be released on Thursday.

The system will work in three ways explained Facebook founder Zuckerberg, at the launch from the company's headquarters.

"It will help you share where you are with your friends, it will help you see people that are around you, and finally it lets you see where your friends have been".

The new service, explains Zuckerberg, will let people "check-in" to places or locations to show that they have been there. Data will then be shared with their friends or merely kept as a record for them in the future.

To help emphasise that the new service is about recording where you've been, rather than just bragging where you are, each place will have a dedicated page on Facebook and users will be able to see which of their friends have been there in the past; seeing what they had to say about the location, be it an office or tourist attraction.

"It's not about broadcasting where you are, its about where you've been", said the project leader for the new Facebook Places offering.

In attempt to get more people aware of the service, Facebook users will be able to tag other Facebook friends they are with in a similar way to how they tag people in photos on the social network.

However, those worried about being caught by their partner at a bar they shouldn't be in, will be able to completely turn off the tagging feature in their privacy settings, whilst Facebook has also made it hard to "game" the system.

Check-ins for example will be friends only as default, and the ability to tag only your friends should stop you claiming you've had dinner with a celeb.

You'll also only tag your friends while you are checking in, so they'll be no suggesting that your best friend spent the evening at a strip bar - unless you were there with them of course.

And yes, you will be notified whenever you are tagged in a place, with the ability to remove that tag if you don't want people to know where you've been.

Facebook's VP product management, Chris Cox, believes that people will use the service to help people be alerted to what drinks or meals are good at the bar you are in, or what stories were shared months before, specific to that place.

"Too many stories are collecting dust on shelves, when we started Facebook we hoped those stories would get a little more attention. Now those stories will be pinned to a physical location, so that maybe in 20 years our children will be able to say this is where our parents had our first kiss", described Cox.

Facebook has also confirmed it will be offering access to Facebook Places via its API system, wheeling out big names like Gowalla, Foursquare , Booyah and Yelp, all of which have promised support for the new system.

Facebook says that the service will be launching first in the US, and then will be slowly rolled out across all 500 million users. Facebook is currently saying that it will be available to all US users over the next couple of weeks.

If you are outside the US you will not be able to check-in from Thursday, however you will see your friends in the US checking in.

BlackBerry and Android apps are promised, although no date has been given yet as to when that might be.