Facebook rolls out location-sharing feature - 13 WTHR Indianapolis

Facebook rolls out location-sharing feature

Updated:
NEW YORK - Facebook users in the U.S. will soon be able to see which of their friends are nearby using a new feature the company is launching on Thursday.

The "Nearby Friends" feature must be turned on by the user, so people shouldn't expect to broadcast their location unknowingly. It will use your smartphone's GPS system to tell your Facebook friends you are nearby - provided they have the feature turned on as well. Rather than share your exact location, it will show only that you are nearby, say, within half a mile.

If you like, you can manually share a more precise location with a specific friend you'd like to meet up with. Friends can see where you're located in a particular park, airport or city block. By default, your exact location will be shared for only an hour, although you can change this.

Nearby Friends launches amid the growing popularity of location-based mobile dating apps such as Tinder and Hinge. But unlike those apps, Facebook's feature will let you meet up only with people who are already your friends.

Nearby Friends also won't be available to users under 18, said Andrea Vaccari, a product manager at Facebook. He said the tool "makes it easy to join your friends in the real world."

Vaccari joined Facebook in 2012, when the company acquired Glancee, his startup service for meeting nearby people who have friends and interests in common. He has been working on the new feature since then.

Facebook employees have been testing Nearby Friends, and Vaccari cites ways it has helped people get together:

- When two people landed at the airport at the same time from different flights, they saw that they did through Nearby Friends and shared a ride home together.

- When two people were out shopping alone in San Francisco, they joined forces after seeing each other nearby.

Nearby Friends, Vaccari said, isn't for the five to 10 close friends whom you feel comfortable texting or calling up to hang out. Rather, he said, it's for the broader group of friends you enjoy spending time with but wouldn't necessarily call. Nearby Friends may provide that extra push. Users can limit whom they share their location with to smaller groups of friends.

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