Where is geolocation at Facebook's F8?

Attendees at developer confab were handed "Facebook Presence" tokens, which hook up RFID tag to Facebook account. Will we see more or this?

Hooking up a Facebook Presence token. Facebook

SAN FRANCISCO--Nestled inside the badges that were handed to attendees at Facebook's F8 developer conference here on Wednesday were what looked like little paper dog tags emblazoned with Facebook's logo. These are part of something calls "Facebook Presence," which at this point is little more than a gimmick for the hordes of techies here.

But it calls up the possibility that when Facebook finally makes a concrete move into the hot "geolocation" space, it may look something like this.

Here's how the RFID-enabled "Presence" works. The tokens contains a number, which F8 attendees were invited to enter on the Facebook Presence page. That page has a logo accompanied by the famous "Back to the Future" line, "Roads? Where we're going we don't need roads." By entering the code into the Presence site, it syncs that token with the user's Facebook account.

The Facebook Presence tokens inside F8 conference badges. Caroline McCarthy/CNET

Around the conference venue at the San Francisco Design Center Concourse, "readers" for Facebook Presence tokens would let F8-goers swipe their tokens to do things like instantly share "photobooth" photos on their profiles and connect to different Facebook pages.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that the company had "nothing to announce" regarding geolocation, a surprise to many who had been anticipating F8 because of rumors that it would be launching something that would enable users to share their locations much like Foursquare, after the social network modified its terms of use to include some language related to location-sharing. There was even a report circulating a few months ago that Facebook was looking to purchase Loopt, an early player in the "check-in" space that has fallen from the headlines with the rise of Foursquare. That didn't happen.

The philosophy behind "Facebook Presence" appears to be similar to Stickybits , a start-up that launched this year at the South by Southwest Interactive Festival. But while Stickybits bar codes are attached to a specific location, a Facebook Presence token presumably moves around with its owner.

The F8 materials explained where all this started. Appropriately, considering Facebook's origins in CEO Mark Zuckerberg's dorm room at Harvard, it involves beer. "Facebook engineers Pedram Keyani and George Lee decided to build the first reader at Facebook after discussing their passion for beer and technology," the description read. "They created 'keg presence' at a company hackathon to give employees a way to share when they were having a beer. Employees would tap their badge, get their photo taken, and generate a feed story whilst grabbing a beer with friends."

There are implications for Facebook Presence technology beyond location-sharing. If Facebook Presence tokens were as common as credit cards, a store could have a token reader that would allow members to instantly connect to that company's Facebook fan page.

Either way, this could be a very clear sign that Facebook wants to permeate the offline world as well as the online. The "land grab" we keep talking about could start going far beyond the Web.

 

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