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Facebook adds a travel-planning feature called ‘City Guides’

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Facebook has been busy with the app updates, as of late. In recent months, it has added new sections for finding nearby Wi-Fi, meeting new people, checking the weather, and more. Now, it’s rolling out yet another addition to the “More” menu inside the Facebook app: City Guides. A potential challenger to Foursquare, Facebook’s guides will show you a list of cities and which of your friends visited, along with various recommendations of places to go and things to do.

When you click into an individual city, you’ll see a row of rounded profile icons of your friends who have visited there. Tap on each one, and a list of the places they’ve been – like hotels, restaurants, attractions, and other businesses – will appear. This data is presumably being extracted from users’ check-ins and Facebook posts.

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Facebook has long allowed users to check-in via their status updates, but it hadn’t done much with that data, in terms of offering a consumer-facing feature to rival Foursquare. That’s been fairly surprising, given that asking friends for ideas of what to do in a new city seems like a perfect feature for a social network like Facebook.

City Guides seems to correct that problem, or at least it’s trying to. The feature itself, however, is more useful if you have a lot of well-traveled friends. But also included in each city’s guide is a list of “Places the Locals Go,” which pulls in popular, highly rated spots. Here, Facebook uses technology to summarize what people are saying about the suggested place.

For example, a restaurant’s summary might read: “People talk about delicious tacos, friendly atmosphere, and brews on tap.” 

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Each item has a bookmark icon to the right, which lets you save the place to a list of favorites. These bookmarked items are available in a “Saved” section at the top of the city’s page. You can also save the city itself, to make a sort of bucket list of places you want to go.

Meanwhile, if you scroll down further in the guide, you’ll see a list of Upcoming Events, which you can swipe through horizontally. Beneath this, is a list of Popular Attractions, which includes things like famous landmarks, tourist attractions, and scenic places. All these can be bookmarked, as well.

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Social travel planning apps (often using Facebook data) was an area where a number of startups competed years ago, including Gtrot, Zetrip, Roam7TrippyJetpacGogobot and others. But the market later fizzled out.

Belatedly, Facebook has stepped in.

Its city guides feature feels like a socially infused version of a traditional travel planning app, but they’re also augmented with the public data available on Facebook, which makes them more useful.

Unfortunately, City Guides seems to only focus on major international cities, and not the small, out-of-way locales that are also popular destinations, like beachy islands, quaint resort towns, remote small towns, and more. It would be great to see this city guides feature expanded in the future so you could pull up any city in the world, no matter its size, and see what your friends did while there.

The City Guides feature was seen in testing last year, noted 9to5Mac, which also spotted this launch, but it now appears to be rolling out more broadly on mobile.

Facebook confirmed the new feature, but noted it’s still in limited availability.

“We’re testing a redesigned surface on city Pages that showcases information about your city, a spokesperson said. “This content already exists on Facebook, and during this test we’ll be centralizing it in a way that is more personalized and relevant to you. So, this new feature can help people get a better sense of their city, or a city they’re visiting through their friends’ eyes.”

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