When Facebook announced check-in service Places almost two weeks ago, they also extended the Graph API to allow developers to access check-in data. The API has severe limitations: user could only check-in only via Facebook and check-in data included only people within your network (eg: friends and friends of friends). However, Facebook partners such as FourSquare, Gowalla and others were given priority access to integrate with this new service. As part of their access, they were allowed to enable user check-in via their applications. And as of last week, SCVNGR and Yelp were rolled out this check-in capability.
I tested out the check-in process via both SCVNGR and Yelp on the iPhone.
As I allowed both application to connect Facebook, SCVNGR requested permission to publish Places check-in data on my behalf while Yelp only requested to post to my wall (see pictures below). However, both pushed data into my Places data stream.
When looking at Places data, I also discovered that checking in at the local Ace Hardware store via Yelp and Facebook generated activity at two separate locations. It is if you are living in a parallel universe where you are going to the same place but not really. In fact, data from the Facebook API shows that there were two distinct locations with the same name and extremely close map coordinates. So friends who are at the same location may not be able to see each other if they use different check-in applications and that negates the benefit of using an alternative check-in application. It is poor architectual decision by Facebook as you can’t simply aggregate the information. The only bit of good news is that Yelp identifies itself as the application used during the check-in process which means that developers who are tapping into the API can decide whether to include/exclude this bit of data during analysis if they do attempt to aggregate the information.
Finally, Places data now includes location data that extends beyond the map coordinates. Some locations now feature address information, such as street, city, state, and zip code. Since Facebook Places is not available globally, it will be interesting to see if Facebook renames the zip code attribute to “postal” code which is more universal/common. Clearly, Facebook has additional architecture/system design challenges ahead of itself.