Is Facebook testing its location based service Places for imminent rollout in the UK? Notes on Twitter started to surface over the weekend indicating that might be the case. And as you can see from this screengrab from @kierondonoghue on Saturday, it did work for a short time.
However, we’ve checked with Facebook’s official spokespeople and they say “We weren’t testing it this weekend contrary to reports.” And a simple check of the iPhone app reveals that even if some people can access their location via mobile in the UK, most can’t.
So there you go. But, the imminent arrival of Facebook Places in the UK and across the rest of Europe is clearly going to have an interesting impact not least on local location-based startups who already compete with Foursquare and Gowalla, to name the two main US players whose services have migrated to Europe.
Location-based check-in services which have developed locally in Europe like Tellmewhere and Plyce which have strongholds in France, and Friendticker in Germany may have their fans but Facebook’s penetration into Europe is deep. When it hits the location button it’s going to be tricky for these local startups, and looking for value beyond location and offers is going to have to become core to their proposition.
I’m fairly confident however that startups that concentrate on content, not just location, have a fair wind behind them, and in that respect Rummble (strongest in the UK) and Qype (pan European) have much stronger foundations.