Facebook Places, a service designed to encourage users to publish their location, is available in the UK from today.
It follows the US launch last month.
The service is exactly the same in the UK as in the US. Users are invited to "check in" via their smart phone when they arrive at a new location. Facebook has bought lists of the locations of UK premises from third party data providers to get the service started.
Users can also tag friends they are with, who will be asked if they want to check in too. A feature called "Here Now" brings up a list of strangers at a given location who have agreed their location can be widely shared.
Privacy controls allow users to limit who else on Facebook is told their location. Users under 18 can't share their location with anyone except their friends.
Social media investors hope location-based services are the next big thing, on apparently scant evidence. Foursquare, which until Facebook entered the fray was lauded as the industry leader, has only three million users worldwide. With more than 500 million users, Facebook has a better chance than any of making it work.
At launch there is no direct money-making scheme attached to Facebook Places, however. At an unspecified point in the future Facebook plans to use location data to target advertising. ®